Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
In 2011, Colt Manufacturing signed a contract with Osceola County, Florida, to open a “regional headquarters and product manufacturing center” in an older, county-owned building. Colt expected to take possession in 2012 and to employ more than 60 people at an average wage of $45,000.
Osceola County renovated the building with a new HVAC system and ventilation for an indoor shooting range. Contractually, the county would lease the building to Colt for $1 per year. The state of Florida contributed $250,000 from a business development fund and agreed to pay for workforce training.
Colt never showed. Instead, a merger took place with Colt Defense, and Colt has kept the Florida move on the back burner. Though Colt has been in business continuously for nearly 175 years, its recent history is plagued with disorder: a 1985 strike by the United Automobile Workers union for higher wages; the loss of U.S. defense contracts to Beretta and FNH in 1988; a corporate fire-sale for $24 million in 1994; promotion of a “smart gun” in 1998; a decision to concentrate on Old West replicas; filing for an IPO and then abandoning that plan a year later; building a fence through the center of its West Hartford plant separating Colt Defense from Colt “Civilian;” a first-quarter 2014 loss of $7.8 million and the recent downgrading of its bonds to junk status.
Even convicted embezzler and former Glock general counsel Paul Jannuzzo suggested, “Perhaps Colt should just leave the Connecticut Valley and change their karma.”
Questions remain whether Colt will eventually expand to Florida, with recent reports saying the company sent local leaders a letter claiming they were going to make good on their commitment. But for now the county and state are left at the altar — a bride waiting on a groom.