Beretta flees Maryland for gun-friendly Tennessee

photo Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam speaks during a ceremony at the state Capitol in Nashville on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, to announce that firearms maker Beretta USA Corp. is building a new manufacturing a research facility in the state. The $45 million plant is expected to be completed this year and create 300 jobs.

Beretta USA Corp., maker of the M-9 pistol for U.S. armed forces, will build a firearms plant in Tennessee, following through on a promise it made to seek out a more gun-friendly state for its manufacturing operations.

The world's oldest manufacturing dynasty, which has operated from Italy since 1526, will create 300 jobs at a $45 million manufacturing and R&D facility in Gallatin, Tenn., just north of Nashville.

"From the moment when we started to consider a location outside of the state of Maryland for our manufacturing expansion, Gov. Haslam and his economic development team did an excellent job demonstrating the benefits of doing business in Tennessee," said Franco Gussalli Beretta, executive vice-president and a director of Beretta U.S.A. Corp. "We are convinced we could find no better place than Tennessee to establish our new manufacturing enterprise."

Beretta originally planned to expand in its home state of Maryland, but the state passed strict gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting that would have made many of the company's products illegal.

"Why expand in a place where the people who built the gun couldn't buy it?" Jeffrey Reh, general counsel for Beretta, told the Washington Post last year.

The company has paid $31 million in Maryland taxes from 1997 to 2014 and employs 400 workers there, Reh said in testimony to the state legislature opposing the stricter laws. Provided that Tennessee does not follow in Maryland's footsteps, the company plans to stay in the Volunteer State for a long time, Reh said Wednesday.

"When Beretta chooses a location for its business, we start with the possibility that we will be in that location for decades, if not hundreds of years, to come," Reh said. "We move forward with confidence knowing that Tennessee is a great place to do business. We look forward to our opportunities here and we look forward to working side-by-side with our new Tennessee neighbors."

Those neighbors include Murfreesboro-based Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, known for its large .50 caliber rifles, and could one day include Remington Arms, which has looked at sites around Nashville to relocate operations out of New York.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday praised Beretta's decision to establish a plant in Tennessee, which has passed bills in recent years loosening restrictions on carrying guns in churches, bars and parking lots.

"Beretta is one of the world's great companies, and its commitment to excellence and Tennessee's rich history in manufacturing make today's announcement a great match as we continue toward our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs," Haslam said.

Beretta is privately owned and operated by members of the 15th and 16th generations of the Beretta family. The company will make firearms for both its sporting and tactical product lines at its new Tennessee plant.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at or 423-757-6315.