Weatherby’s Seismic Shift

by
posted on January 30, 2018
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Weatherby, the California firearm company founded on the promise of big, fast and powerful hunting cartridges, last week announced it is leaving the only state it has called home since 1945. Beginning in 2019, “California Weatherbys” will cease to be made; in their place “Wyoming Weatherbys” will be produced at a freshly designed headquarters and production facility in Sheridan, Wyo.

“We are truly pleased to announce our relocation to the state of Wyoming,” said president Adam Weatherby, grandson of company founder Roy. “Governor Mead and his team at the Wyoming Business Council have outdone themselves in their recruitment of the Weatherby headquarters. We are looking forward to operating in a state that truly supports the Second Amendment and provides some of the best big-game hunting in the world. Their tax friendly environment, low cost of living and growing workforce will undoubtedly help us grow as we look toward the future. This relocation will be one of the largest undertakings we have done since my grandfather founded this business in 1945, but I believe it will prove to be one of the most significant chapters in Weatherby’s history.”

Weatherby representatives said the company sought a place where it could recruit and retain a great workforce in a region where its employees could live an outdoor lifestyle.

“Wyoming is a great place to do business and is excited to welcome Weatherby to Sheridan,” said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. “For over 70 years, Weatherby has been an innovator in firearms design and manufacturing. The company will add to our manufacturing base and fit well with our diversification objectives.”

This is not Weatherby’s first move. As a traveling salesman living in Kansas in the 1930s and ’40s, company founder Roy Weatherby fell in love with the California climate, and he settled his family and company in the greater Los Angeles community of South Gate. Weatherby expanded in 1951 to a new storefront on Firestone Blvd. then moved to Atascadero, Calif., in the mid-1990s. More recently, it moved to Paso Robles, site of its current headquarters.

But this news might prompt some observers to say, critically, that Weatherby has abandoned California. On the contrary: California abandoned Weatherby long ago.

“I honestly believe the best is yet to come for us,” said Adam Weatherby. “We are looking to grow, and we think Sheridan is a perfect place to do that.”You won’t hear company representatives say that, of course. After all, Weatherby still has more than a year left in which to do business in the state. But the truth is it is evident that the cost to Weatherby to do business in the Golden State—in terms of payroll taxes, health care costs, rent and red tape—has become too much to bear.

Here’s only one example: Any prospective worker who wishes to be employed by a “gun business” in California must first obtain a certificate of eligibility verifying he or she has passed a background investigation conducted by the state. The process takes four months. It’s not an overstatement to say this places financial burden on manufacturers like Weatherby. Imagine a company has 10 people making its flagship, say, the Weatherby Mark V rifle; imagine those folks collectively are responsible for a significant portion of a company’s bottom line; then imagine one employee gives two weeks’ notice … and a company must wait four months before it can replace lost production.

It’s sad it’s come to this. But, like Magpul’s recent retreat from Colorado, this move makes sense for a firearm company. Why stay where you aren’t wanted? NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox, on hand for Weatherby’s announcement, summed up the situation: “What the Weatherby family is doing is uniquely American—and that’s chasing freedom.”

On the other hand, the move allows Weatherby to consider production of firearms and accessories it cannot make in California. It’s safe to say some interesting Weatherbys might come on-line in the near future—guns we never expected to bear the “curly W.” And the move opens new doors. The company now employs about 70 people, but only about 20 will make the move in 2019. So it will busily recruit a new workforce, including white-collar and blue-collar workers, to Sheridan. Machinists, marketers, sales professionals and others who would like to live and work in the Mountain West for an iconic company synonymous with the American hunter should take note.

“I honestly believe the best is yet to come for us,” said Adam Weatherby. “We are looking to grow, and we think Sheridan is a perfect place to do that.”

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