Stressed for space just two years after moving from Burlington to a larger facility in Cody, Gunwerks is looking to further expand its manufacturing space.
Forward Cody CEO James Klessens said the custom long-range rifle company expects to add 75 positions, upping its total to 112, with a base pay for most employees of $18 per hour with a 12 percent benefit package.
To make that possible, the nonprofit economic development corporation is prepared to finance a new building with funding help from the State of Wyoming.
Klessens attended a special June 26 Cody City Council meeting to inform council members of the company’s $6 million expansion plan, and to ask for their support.
“The nuts and bolts of it is we don’t have enough property to expand,” he said of the current facility near the Cody airport that Forward Cody leases to Gunwerks.
Klessens said Gunwerks is scattered across four buildings, including a facility in Burlington and offices around Cody.
A roughly 5-acre piece of property overlooking the Shoshone River at 201 Blackburn is the chosen site for a new facility. The area north of Big Horn Cinemas is zoned D-3 for open business and light industrial uses.
Klessens said Gunwerks has purchased the property with intention to deed the land to Forward Cody, which will then offer its value as a grant match. The company will also need to buy equipment.
Klessens said Forward Cody hopes to build the 36,080-square-foot new facility with a $3 million, 30-year amortized Business Ready Community state loan at 1.5 percent and a $3 million Wyoming Business Council grant. Gunwerks will then lease the facility for $4.27 per square foot as part of a 20-year lease agreement.
After the first five years, Forward Cody plans to increase the rent by 10 percent every five years. A portion of lease payments will be credited toward purchase, and after five years, Gunwerks will have the option to buy the property by paying the remaining state loan and grant balances.
Gunwerks owner Aaron Davidson first approached Forward Cody last fall. Klessens said since then they’ve worked to make the expansion possible. After consulting with the WBC, they determined the project was doable.
“We’ve kicked it down the road, and all of the sudden it got to going like crazy,” he said.
The Wyoming Business Council meets in Cody Sept. 6, at which time the board will act on the loan and grant applications. The State Loan and Investment Board will consider whether to fund the project in October.
If the requests are approved, the goal is to complete the facility by November 2019, Klessens said.
Initially when Gunwerks was planning to move into Forward Cody’s light manufacturing incubator at 2301 Lt. Childers St., Klessens said the company committed to providing 13 jobs in Cody. They now boast 37 positions. Gunwerks expects to add all 75 new positions to the Cody production facility, including 11 professional-level jobs, with wages around $40 per hour.
“That’s a $3.5 million payroll,” Klessens said.
Offering further praise, he said, “They’re a good company. They’re homegrown and they make a good product that’s well received within the industry.”
The new prefabricated building will consist of a 19,000-square-foot manufacturing space plus office, retail and warehouse areas. A shooting tunnel, parking lot and loading dock are included.
At first, Davidson considered 50,000-square-feet as feasible. But funding can’t accommodate that much space just yet. So the building is designed to expand incrementally with additions, Klessens said.