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Locked & loaded: Gun maker finds warmer surroundings in South Carolina after leaving Connecticut

  • Josh Fiorini, CEO of PTR Industries, formerly of Bristol., Conn., told FoxNews.com that the firm’s new facility in Aynor, S.C., remains a week away from production, but 11 local employees began sorting inventory on Monday along with a team of training personnel from Connecticut. The manufacturer of military-style rifles announced in April that it intended to leave Bristol following the passage of gun control legislation after the shooting deaths of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. (Courtesy: PTR Industries)

  • June 24, 2013: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks at a ceremony welcoming Connecticut gun maker PTR Industries to the state in Aynor, S.C. PTR Industries CEO Josh Fiorini is to Haley's right and said his firm decided to move after Connecticut passed stricter gun laws after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. (AP/Jeffrey Collins

From beat cops to cashiers to Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s newest gun manufacturer has received an “absolutely tremendous” amount of support since leaving Connecticut for The Palmetto State, according to the firm's CEO.

Josh Fiorini, CEO of PTR Industries, formerly of Bristol., Conn., told FoxNews.com that the firm’s new facility in Aynor, S.C., remains a week away from production, but 11 local employees began sorting inventory on Monday along with a team of training personnel from Connecticut. The manufacturer of military-style rifles announced in April that it intended to leave Bristol following the passage of gun-control legislation after the shooting deaths of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.

“In general, things are going very well,” Fiorini said Tuesday. “Basically, we’re just unpacking and training right now, but the building is coming together and we’re putting on the final touches. We’re all very excited.”

"In Connecticut, we always felt like a dirty little secret. Down there, it’s very much the opposite."

- Josh Fiorini, CEO, PTR Industries

The company, which purchased its new 58,000-square-foot facility at a discounted price of $3 million and reportedly received an undisclosed amount of tax rebates, employed more than 40 employees in Connecticut and 21 of them will move to South Carolina. Fiorini said it will hire an additional 30 workers within the first quarter of 2014, with a goal of having 120 employees in 2017.

“The facility that we’re going to move into is fantastically better than the one we’re coming from,” he said. “It allows us to consolidate two facilities into one and it’s much more modern, allowing us to set up our line in a more efficient way and hopefully expand.”

Among its full-time positions, which include health care and dental plans, Fiorini said assembly line workers can earn up to $20 per hour depending on experience, while machine operators are paid up to $25 hourly. Salaries for engineers and managers, meanwhile, can reach $80,000, he said.

"It’s a big range,” he said. “And what we really want to do here is get to about 120 [employees] within three years and to be around 150 within five years.”

Roughly 2,000 people applied for 30 positions within the company in November, Fiorini said.

Bob Grabowski, a councilman in Horry County, was the company’s first hire in South Carolina back in October. Grabowski later joined PTR Industries as a full-time employee in December and now works as its purchasing manager. Grabowski said he was one of the early proponents for the move to a more “pro-gun” atmosphere, especially when compared to Connecticut.

“The political welcoming has been very good,” said Grabowski, adding that Hailey and Rep. Tom Rice supported the June announcement for the move. “It’s been a very exciting and welcoming atmosphere for PTR. My perception is that Connecticut wasn’t very welcoming to PTR Industries in general and legislated them out of business and out of the state, whereas the political climate in South Carolina is very different.”

Grabowski continued: “There’s a lot of people down here very excited about this place. Most people around here are very pro-gun.”

Lisa Bourcier, public information director for Horry County, told FoxNews.com that the county experienced a “good year” in job growth since PTR Industries announced its plans to join the Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor.

“Our area leaders think it's not too far-fetched to believe Horry County could very well be a major player in the gun manufacturing industry,” Bourcier said in an email to FoxNews.com. “The great thing is we have a council that's focused on economic development, and we're all working together to bring more jobs to our community.”

Fiorini, meanwhile, said the company will no longer feel like the “dirty little secret” it did in Connecticut.

“I have personally been able to get a very good feel from South Carolina, from the governor down to the local beat cops to your average citizen,” he said. “The welcoming has been tremendous. People on the street, cashiers at the gas station or the pizza place, or even TSA agents, they know who we are and they’re happy to have us. In Connecticut, we always felt like a dirty little secret. Down there, it’s very much the opposite.”

Magpul Industries, an ammunition magazine manufacturer, announced last week it plans to make good on its threat to leave Colorado due to new restrictions on guns, including the ban of ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. The company, which employs roughly 250 people, will move its corporate headquarters to Texas.