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Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Industry Draws New Manufacturers

For manufacturers of outdoor equipment – from firearms and optics to gear and clothing – having a Wyoming address is good business. It’s also a great lifestyle.

By Claire Ratliff on February 13, 2014

For manufacturers of outdoor equipment – from firearms and optics to gear and clothing – having a Wyoming address is good business. It’s also a great lifestyle.

“I can be in the mountains in 10 minutes,” says Mike Lilygren, one of the principals of Lander-based Bridge Outdoors, a manufacturer of outerwear, outdoor equipment and accessories. It also offers a custom-branded line with each customer’s own logo on the products.

“Beyond Wyoming’s tax advantages and low cost of living, I have access to outdoor recreation and an outdoor lifestyle,” he says.

At Grouse Wing Camo, owner Carlos Gonzales constantly field tests the innovative camouflage products made by his company for hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts.

“That’s what it’s all about in Wyoming. Outdoor recreation,” Gonzales says.

The Lander-based company sells clothing, dried food, outdoor cutlery and hunting equipment. Grouse Wing’s breakthrough camouflage design is based on the pattern of a grouse’s wing.

“I got a nice five-point buck on my last hunt. I do every year,” he says.

Authentic Gear

A Wyoming address helps Grouse Wing stand out in a competitive industry. Demand for authentic outdoor products is growing, and what could be more authentic than gear made in a state whose name is synonymous with outdoor adventure, Gonzales asks.

“I call it the Nike mentality,” he says. “People want to have the right gear.”

Gonzales is a Wyoming native. Mike and Kristy Jones moved to the state in 2007 from Portland, Ore., when Mike Jones worked for another company. In May 2013, they decided Wyoming was the perfect location for their new business, Fremont Knives.

Wyoming offers distinct advantages for a startup businesses, including grants for trade shows, low taxes and a probusiness climate, Mike Jones says.

His company produces “folders” – pocket knives made in the United States – and the Farson blade, a modern, stainless steel survival tool inspired by a tool used by the inhabitants of the Great Red Desert near Farson. It can be made into a hatchet, chop kindling, skin an animal or chop onions for dinner.

Basing the company in Wyoming was both a business and a personal decision.

“We make products used by western outdoors people, our target consumers,” Jones says. “And we love Wyoming. It fits. It’s our lifestyle.”

Wyoming offers another advantage for outdoor manufacturers. The state’s central location in the West makes it easy to ship products anywhere. Lilygren at Bridge Outdoors says it is more efficient and cost-effective to distribute products from Lander than from large cities on the West Coast. The company ships to retailers and direct to consumers.

Efficient logistics are important to Grouse Wing Camo as well. Gonzales says the company has a growing customer base in Pennsylvania and other Eastern markets. Outdoorsmen can’t afford to waste days waiting for their orders to arrive during hunting season.  

Favorable Business Climate

Tax advantages, a favorable business environment and unmatched mountain views brought HiViz Shooting Systems to Laramie. The company relocated from Colorado.

HiViz Shooting Systems manufactures light-gathering sights, recoil pads and accessories for the shooting industry.

HiViz considered Wyoming’s tax advantages for the business and its employees, resources available through the University of Wyoming and a favorable location with a beautiful view of the Snowy Range mountains to the west, says President and CEO Phillip Howe.

“The decision to relocate the company was difficult, and choosing the proper location was essential to our continued growth within the industry,” Howe says. “The fine people with the Wyoming Business Council and the Laramie Economic Development Corp. worked diligently to accommodate our needs and make us feel welcome. We look forward to settling into our new home in the firearm-friendly state of Wyoming.”

The company’s relocation is rooted in Colorado’s tightening of its gun control laws. HiViz announced in spring 2013 that it would seek a new location more supportive of its products and customers.

And there’s one more benefit for outdoor manufacturers in Wyoming, says Bridge Outdoors’ Lilygren.

 “Being in Wyoming also has marketing advantages. It means more to our customers to be a real Wyoming-based company,” he says. “The first item in our mission statement says we have to be in Wyoming.”

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