Umarex USA/Walther plans to invest $30 million in its Fort Smith operation at Chaffee Crossing and add 76 jobs. Of the investment, an estimated $8 million will be used to expand the facility and $22 million will be used to acquire machinery and equipment.
The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Thursday (Jan. 18) approved an Industrial Revenue Bond for the company to use to help finance the expansion.
“This is a great thing for the City of Fort Smith,” said Fort Smith Director Kevin Settle. “It gives me great excitement. Maybe somewhere down the road, we can work with the Fort Smith Police Department to switch to Walther Guns.”
The expansion supports research and development and firearm manufacturing.
“Walther Manufacturing is making a substantial investment in our Fort Smith factory to facilitate the expansion of our research development and manufacturing of U.S.-produced firearms and accessories,” Tom Goike, Walther president and CEO, said in a statement.
Umarex USA opened its American corporate headquarters in Fort Smith in 2010, and added a $7 million expansion in 2013 when Walther Arms, also a component of parent company Umarex, moved its operations to Fort Smith. At the time, the company said it would have 70 to 120 jobs in Fort Smith when the expansion is complete.
“My connection to Umarex and Walther goes back many years. They are a key fixture in the high-tech manufacturing fabric of the Fort Smith Region and a partner who shares our goal of growing and recruiting a talented workforce,” said Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. “It was a pleasure to work with the leadership at Walther again to secure this project in Fort Smith. We welcome Walther’s expansion as they further solidify their place in our community and allow it to meet the demand of its military, law enforcement and consumer markets.”
Umarex USA is one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of airguns, pistols, rifles, and other sport shooting products. The parent company based in Germany is the world’s largest manufacturer of over-the-counter firearm replicas and the largest importer of air guns in Europe. Founded in 1972, the mid-sized company has approximately 1,000 employees worldwide.
The expansions will add more than 40,000 square feet to the existing 185,000-square-foot building and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024. The new jobs will pay more than $20 an hour, according to a City of Fort Smith memo.
“Walther is a world-renowned firearms company, and they have been a great corporate partner in Arkansas for the past decade,” said Clint O’Neal, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “We are excited to see the company grow in the Natural State, and we look forward to their continued success.”
Manufacturing jobs in the Fort Smith metro continue to be well below historic levels. The region had an estimated 18,500 manufacturing jobs in November, down from 18,600 in November 2022. The sector posted peak metro employment of 31,200 in June 1999, and has not been at or above 20,000 jobs since January 2011.