You may not realize it but the Quad Cities area is considered by many to be the heart of American firearms manufacturing with nearly a half-dozen world-renowned companies based right here. But a controversial proposal in Illinois to ban all semi-automatic firearms would force them out of the state could cost our area more than 600 jobs. If House Bill 1294 were signed into law the measure would ban the production, sale and even of possession of all semi-automatic firearms. Illinois gun manufactures say if this gets passed, they'd be forced to leave, taking millions in tax dollars and hundreds of good paying jobs with them. Something manufacturers are trying to avoid.
"We have engineers doing designing, we have people doing fixtures the fixtures go on machines and the machines have people running them. You can't just take a factory like this pack it up into a couple of pickup trucks and move it away," says Armalite Inc. owner Mark Westrom.
Companies like Armalite, Rock River Arms, Springfield Armory and Lewis Machine and Tool all call the Illinois home. But more than 30 states have lined up trying to lure these companies away from our area. That's exactly why Charlie Lotridge and the Henry County Economic Development Partnership spent last Thursday in Springfield trying to educate Illinois legislators.
"If we don't educate our legislators we can't go back and complain about it," says Lotridge.
Henry County economic experts say the last thing they want to see is valuable locally owned companies picking up and leaving. This is exactly what Les Baer Customs did four years ago when they picked up their entire Hillsdale Illinois plant and moved across the river to LeClaire Iowa.
"That was a worst case scenario they took their manufacturing and they moved it to another state, and then they grew upon it after they moved. That was growth that could have happened here in the State of Illinois," says Lotridge.
Right now Illinois ranks dead last in the country when it comes economic development opportunities says Lotridge, and unfriendly business legislation like this won't make the situation any better. House bill 1294 was introduced in February of last year by Chicago representative Edward Acevedo. Local legislators say right now it appears as if the gun ban does not have the votes to pass.