Higher-end gun manufacturer Dark Storm Industries LLC is looking to move manufacturing operations to Titusville, bringing 50 jobs to the Space Coast.
The company currently is based in Oakdale, Long Island, New York, but is outgrowing its current facilities.
Co-owner Edward Newman says Dark Storm manufactures guns targeted to the "upper-middle market," including AR-15-style rifles. During a recent presentation to the North Brevard Economic Development Zone board, Newman described the company's niche as being the gun market's equivalent of what BMW is in the car market.
Newman said, despite the coronavirus pandemic, business at Dark Storm is strong.
"We tend to do good in bad times," such as economic downturns or threats of turmoil, Newman said. New product introductions this year should present "significant growth opportunities."
Dark Storm is considering initially building a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on an undeveloped, county-owned site within the Spaceport Commerce Park in south Titusville. The company said it also could expand its complex to 45,000 square feet in the future, increasing its staff to 100.
The North Brevard Economic Development Zone board unanimously approved $499,995 worth of economic development incentive grants to help persuade Dark Storm to relocate to Titusville. The grants will help reimburse Dark Storm for infrastructure and site improvements, as well as for capital investments. Dark Storm plans to spend about $1.6 million on construction of the facility and $1.2 million on new capital equipment.
"We are looking to build a high-profile, landmark-type building," Newman said. The company projected $10 million to $20 million in annual sales from the production in Titusville, with 95% of sales made to buyers outside Florida.
The incentives are dependent on the company creating at least 25 jobs paying an average of at least $50,000 a year by the end of 2025.
Dark Storm — which has been going by the code name "Project Freedom" in its initial request for incentives — also is expected to seek property tax incentives from Brevard County and the city of Titusville, according to North Brevard Economic Development Zone Executive Director Troy Post.
He said the Brevard County Commission is likely to consider the matter in March, and the Titusville City Council is likely to address it in late March or early April. The amount of those incentive requests is undetermined. But they are likely to be tied to a formula that takes into account the number of jobs created, the average salary of the jobs and the company's capital investment.
Post said Dark Storm had been considering sites in various states for its expansion project, and now has two finalists — Titusville and one other undisclosed site in Florida. The company had been considering other Florida sites in Bay, Escambia, Indian River and Santa Rosa counties.
Edgar Campa-Palafox, director of business development for the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast, said the effort to attract Dark Storm to the Space Coast has been "highly competitive."
Campa-Palafox told the NBDEZ board that, if Dark Storm moves to Titusville, it would add to a cluster of firearms companies in Brevard County, and would help diversify the Space Coast manufacturing economy beyond aerospace.
He said the company's jobs will pay an average of $50,000 a year.
Campa-Palafox said the positions would be in a range of categories, including manufacturing, assembly, distribution, warehousing, sales, accounting and engineering, among others. Post said the incentive package the NBEDZ board approved does not have to go to the County Commission because the incentive amount is less than $500,000.
But Post said the County Commission will have to approve the terms of the lease for the 9-acre property that Dark Storm is looking at developing, likely in March.
Newman said the undeveloped site has its drawbacks, including its sandy topography and having some wetlands areas, which is part of the reason Dark Storm is looking for county, municipal and development zone financial incentives to locate there.