The owner of Anoka’s Federal Cartridge Company laid off 110 employees earlier this month.
Vista Outdoor owns the ammunition manufacturing plant. It said low sales during the last hunting season and an anticipated decrease in sales going forward due to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States led to this move, according to Amanda Covington, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Vista Outdoor.
After the layoff, Federal Cartridge’s Anoka facility has 1,320 employees remaining.
“As the company stated during its third quarter earnings call, we experienced a challenging retail environment due in part to a weak hunting season and the outcome of the 2016 presidential election,” Covington said. “The company has stated that we are actively engaged in initiatives designed to right size our inventory levels, and the head count reduction in Anoka is directly tied to this.”
Covington said the firearm industry in general had unprecedented year after year growth from 2008 to 2016, which coincided with the administration of President Barack Obama. The demand for firearms and ammunition has lessened since Trump was elected, although Covington did not provide specific percentages.
“The shooting sports market softened significantly following the election as consumer demand was reduced due to a more certain regulatory environment for gun owners under the current administration,” she said.
Anoka’s Federal Cartridge was not the only Vista Outdoor facility affected by the decreased demand for ammunition. Covington said the company implemented a voluntary furlough at its Lewingston, Idaho facility for March 1-30, affecting approximately 100 ammunition manufacturing employees.
But despite the layoffs, Vista Outdoor is still proceeding with a $33.9 million expansion project. Construction is underway and machinery has been installed in this project that will be completed in phases, Covington said.
Once Vista Outdoor knew it would be laying off people, it rescinded its request for public dollars to assist with the expansion. Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development had said it would give Vista Outdoor $258,000 from DEED’s Job Creation Fund. There was also going to be a $900,000 loan from the Minnesota Investment Fund.
The company had said last fall that it expected to add about 50 new jobs over the next two years.
DEED requires a government entity to submit an application for grant funding. The city of Anoka submitted the application on behalf of Vista Outdoor but never had any money pledged for this expansion, according to Anoka Community Development Director Doug Borglund. All the grant and loan dollars would have come from the state, but no outside assistance will be coming any more now that 110 people lost their jobs.
“Vista Outdoor proactively rescinded its request for funds prior to receiving grant or incentive dollars,” Covington said.