Smith & Wesson moving headquarters to Tennessee

  • Trade show attendees examine handguns and rifles in the Smith & Wesson display booth at the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Tradeshow, Jan. 14, 2014, in Las Vegas. AP FILE PHOTO/JULIE JACOBSON

Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2021 10:51:06 AM

SPRINGFIELD — Smith & Wesson, one of the oldest gun manufacturers in the country, will move its headquarters, and a significant portion of its operations, from Springfield to Tennessee in 2023.

Citing what he calls “arbitrary and damaging legislation” being considered in Massachusetts as the catalyst for such a departure from the city where the company was founded in 1852, Mark Smith, president and chief executive officer, said he is deeply saddened at the impact this will have on employees.

“This has been an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us, but after an exhaustive and thorough analysis, for the continued health and strength of our iconic company, we feel that we have been left with no other alternative,” Smith said.

Smith said there are potentially burdensome restrictions proposed in Massachusetts that would prevent the manufacture of certain firearms that are legal in almost every other state.

A proposal in the Democrat-led state Legislature would extend the state’s ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons or large-capacity magazines to also outlaw manufacturing them in Massachusetts, unless it’s for the military or law enforcement.

“While we are hopeful that this arbitrary and damaging legislation will be defeated in this session, these products made up over 60% of our revenue last year, and the unfortunate likelihood that such restrictions would be raised again led to a review of the best path forward for Smith & Wesson,” Smith said.

Even with the move, though, 1,000 employees will continue to machine components in Springfield, where design engineering will remain, along with all forging, machining, metal finishing and assembly of revolvers.

“All of the metal-working will stay here, and revolver assembly will stay here,” Smith said.

But consolidating operations in Maryville, Tennessee, and closing plants in both Connecticut and Missouri, will require moving around 750 employees. The new building will have the company’s headquarters, plastic injection molding, pistol, and long gun assembly and distribution.

Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, said in a statement that the decision means that more than 500 families in the region will lose stable, well-paying jobs.

“Looking forward, I’ve already begun conversations with relevant public and private sector leaders about suitable reuse of the space and ways to assist the 550 impacted employees through training, job placement, and other means,” Lesser said. “It is my hope that the location remains vibrant and in keeping with the proud manufacturing tradition of our region.”

Deana McPherson, the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said Smith & Wesson will have a $138 million cash outlay for the buildings, capital and equipment and information technology investments.

One of the reasons to head to Tennessee, the company reasoned, is its “support for the 2nd Amendment.”

Tennessee has moved to loosen gun restrictions in recent years. Earlier this year, the state became the latest to allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns without a permit that requires first clearing a state-level background check and training.

Though the move is two years away, Smith said he wanted to announce the changes early so that employees can make the best decisions for their families. Smith & Wesson will assist with moving costs, provide enhanced severance and offer job placement for those who can’t leave the Pioneer Valley.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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