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Ammo maker plans move to Butte
Arthur B. Alphin holds an example of his product that he plans to manufacture in Butte. The ammunition is designed for African safari animals, but will also be suitable for Montana game. Lisa Kunkel / The Montana Standard.

An established ammunition manufacturer plans to relocate his Kentucky plant to Butte, local officials announced Wednesday.

Owner Arthur Alphin wants to move A-Square, his 10-plus-year-old company, into the Tax Increment Financing Industrial District 10 miles west of Butte.

A-Square will produce cartridge cases, bullets and maintain an underground ballistics testing facility in a 8,000-square-foot building on a 3.64-acre lot in the district.

Alphin said he caters to big-game expeditions and high-end bullet customers.

“It’s incredibly popular with safari hunters,” Alphin said. “I can’t make it fast enough. We taylor to the folks who have the disposable income to do this.” In a TIFID, a portion of property taxes is diverted into a special account for economic development.

See AMMO, Page A6 Alphin plans to ask the TIFID for $900,000 to help build infrastructure, including the building and testing facility. He said he’s bringing more than $3 million in equipment into the plant and is investing personal money as well.

Chief Executive Paul Babb said he’s happy Alphin chose Butte to relocate.

“This is exactly the kind of manufacturing we’re looking for in our community,” he said.

Alphin said his plant will be environmentally neutral and bring outside cash into Montana.

“We’re not cutting the tops off of mountains, and we’re not recycling Montana dollars in Montana. We’re bringing in money from Florida, from Texas, from California, from Germany,” he said.

A-Square distributes internationally, through outlets like Cabela’s and to individuals. Alphin also distributes treatises on cartridges that are distributed across the world.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who worked with Alphin, said Butte is a perfect fit for light manufacturing.

“Butte is the best place in the world for this,” he said.

Alphin said he will hire gradually while training employees and hopes to have 24 workers by 2010.

The TIFID board Wednesday decided to table approving a development agreement with Alphin until a special meeting Sept. 6.

Members were supportive of the agreement, but concerned about the bidding process Stage one, hiring an architect to develop building plans, is projected to cost less than $20,000. Alphin hired a local architect for that part of the process, but county attorney Eileen Joyce said the TIFID could run into trouble if that work costs more than expected.

“It gets dangerous if it’s close to that and you didn’t bid it out,” she said.

She also said the TIFID needs to avoid bid splitting, the concept of dividing work to keep bills under the $20,000 mark.

Instead of going through a bidding process, which would push back Alphin’s timeline, board members proposed he pay for Phase 1 himself and secure a letter from an architect promising work for that part of the project won’t exceed $20,000.

“I just don’t want us to make any mistakes,” board member Charlie O’Leary said.

— Reporter Holly Michels can be reached via e-mail at holly.michels@lee.net.

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