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Blue collar town rocked as nation's oldest gun manufacturer flees for red state: 'Can't erase history'

Remington, America's oldest gun manufacturer, is closing its doors in New York after more than 200 years in the state, moving to Georgia.

America’s oldest gun manufacturer, Remington, is officially closing its plant in New York this month and moving to Georgia after more than 200 years in the Empire State. 

"Ilion is Remington. Remington is Ilion," Ilion, New York, Mayor John Stephens told Fox News Digital in a Zoom interview ahead of the plant’s closure. 

The phrase and sentiment is one the mayor has repeated over the course of his time in office and before, even as an icebreaker while he was in college introducing himself to a professor and peers. 

"It doesn't matter if you're manufacturing firearms here anymore or not. You can't erase history. … Ilion will always be known as the home of Remington Arms," Stephens, who has spent nearly all of his 57 years in Ilion, said. 


Ilion is a blue-collar village nestled in New York’s Mohawk Valley, roughly 200 miles northwest of New York City. Remington was founded in the village back in 1816 by Eliphalet Remington. 

Late last year, Remington leaders ​​told union officials that company chiefs at RemArms, the current version of Remington Arms, made the decision to end its New York manufacturing this March. The remaining operations located in Ilion will move to Georgia, where company leaders say the firearms industry is supported and welcomed. 


The news has rocked the New York community, as generations of families worked in the factory, and even the town, itself boasts street names paying homage to the company, such as Remington Ave. and Armory St. 

"​​We're still a blue collar, get your hands dirty, roll up your shirt sleeves and elbows deep in whatever [town]," Stephens told Fox News Digital. "I have a huge family background here, as a lot of people my age do. You know, great-grandparents and grandparents and parents ….I know there [were] employees there that were fifth and sixth generation employees."

He said the closure in New York is not only an "historic loss," but a "nostalgic loss." 

Stephens described Ilion as a "pro-Second Amendment community," partially due to its long history with Remington, but also because the area has a culture promoting hunting, fishing and gun safety. 

"From a very early age, I was introduced to firearms, whether it was a shotgun or a rifle or a handgun. You know, maybe it's almost ingrained in you, that gun safety, hunting, fishing - that's a lot of what we do around here," he said, arguing that the local region is pro-firearm and firearm safety. 


The Remington plant previously employed thousands of people, which dwindled to roughly 1,500 employees back in the 2010s, when Stephens was first elected mayor, he said. The plant employed roughly 300 people when business chiefs announced the plant was moving out of New York. 

"It's been reducing and reducing, reducing as far as the amount of employee. So you're looking at 300 folks that are not going to be working in that factory. So that's 300 people that aren't going to be in the village every day. They might walk out and and grab a slice of pizza or a sub or go to McDonald's and grab a lunch there. You know, buy fuel or gas when they're in town," Stephens said. 

The financial toll left by the 1.1 million-square-foot facility closing will be tough, the mayor said, but not as devastating if the plant still employed thousands of people. Those who worked at the plant can pick up jobs at local distribution and manufacturing centers, he said. 

"It's gonna be tough for a little while. The local businesses are definitely going to see a little bit of a downtick. But again, 300 versus 1,500. It's a little bit easier to swallow, but it still doesn't make things any easier," he said, noting that Ilion revolved around people heading into "the shop," as locals call the Remington plant. 

The mayor and fellow city leaders are now looking at a budget plan after estimating the plant’s closure will cost the village an estimated $1 million annually, including utility payments and taxes.


"This year, we're going to be very, very stringent. It's going to be very tight. But when we started our budget process, which we're just winding up … we started out with a 30% tax increase, if we had to cover everything that we were going to lose. And through the hard work of myself, the village board and our village treasurer, we're looking at something between 2 and 3% as a tax increase, and that's without cutting any services," he said. 

Village leaders are currently looking at options to reconfigure the massive plant, which sits on 34 acres in the middle of the town, with the mayor hoping multiple individual businesses or one large company moves in. 

While hashing out the town’s future, Stephens is calling on Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to meet with him and other town leaders to discuss finances. 

"I need the governor to know. I need our county, our state and our federal elected officials - who are all aware - I just need them to know that we need financial assistance … Next year is probably going to be the toughest year because it'll be the first full year, budget year, without that revenue," he said. 

Remington, which was sold in 1993, again in 2007 and again in 2020, was rocked by financial woes in recent years, including filing for bankruptcy in 2018 and 2020. In 2022, the company paid $73 million as part of a lawsuit stemming from the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012. 

Some Republicans in the state, including Rep. Elise Stefanik and state Sen. Mark Walczyk, previously blamed New York’s restrictive gun laws for the move. 


The company's CEO said in a statement late last year that they are "excited" about the move to a state that embraces the Second Amendment. 

"We are very excited to come to Georgia, a state that not only welcomes business but enthusiastically supports and welcomes companies in the firearms industry," RemArms CEO Ken D'Arcy said in a statement. "Everyone involved in this process has shown how important business is to the state and how welcoming they are to all business, including the firearms industry."

Stephens said that some locals have "almost a knee-jerk" reaction to blaming New York politicians and laws such as New York’s Gun Industry Liability Law for Remington’s move, while noting this was a business move on the part of RemArms. The liability law was signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2021, allowing gun makers to be sued if they "knowingly or recklessly create, maintain or contribute" to violence. 

"Do I think that New York's political climate is partially the reason? Yeah. Yeah, I do. But I think that's probably the … lesser of the reasons. The folks that currently own RemArms made a business decision. And some of their reasons were spot on, some of them I don't agree with. The factory is definitely probably inefficient for production nowadays," he said. 

Stephens previously told media outlets that the move out of Ilion is like the village is "losing its soul," and elaborated to Fox News Digital that the closure marks an end to generational lines of families working in "the shop."

"I don't think we have this next coming generation. I don't think there were many of them there anyways. So I think you're probably looking at people that are probably in their 30s or older that are in the factory now," he said. 

Despite financial hurdles and the sentimental and historical loss of the plant, Stephens said the town is resilient and staying positive. 


"We have to remain positive here and not just in Ilion, but in this entire region. We have to be positive that we're going to be able to attract businesses to utilize that facility. And again, it might be one large business, it might be a couple dozen smaller businesses that can utilize the space. And that's our goal, and I'm optimistic and I'm working every day to accomplish that."

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