When Remington Outdoor Company announced on May 15 that it was shuttering Kalispell-based rifle-barrel manufacturer Montana Rifleman, it signaled the end of a business that had thrived in the Flathead Valley for nearly 25 years and the loss of between 60 and 80 local jobs. In response, on May 18 and 22, the Flathead Job Service conducted a pair of rapid response workshops designed to help the laid-off workers look for new jobs, file for unemployment insurance and otherwise deal with being handed a 60-day notice that their jobs were being sent to Huntsville, Ala.
Lori Reiner, who helped conduct the workshops, says the employees “didn’t seem totally discouraged,” in part because many of them were hopeful they would be able to find work nearby—as in, directly next door to Montana Rifleman, at the Montana Rifle Company.
But that optimism may not extend to everyone. Jeff Sipe, who runs MRC’s day-to-day operations, estimates his company will only hire a small number of the Rifleman employees, despite the long and close connection between the two companies.
Sipe’s father, Brian, founded both companies—Montana Rifleman in 1990 and MRC in 1999. MRC has always sourced its barrels from its neighbor. That continued even after Brian sold Rifleman to Remington early last year and retired.
Jeff Sipe says the company wasn’t entirely caught off-guard by Remington’s decision. After a while it became clear that it didn’t make business sense for Remington to ship barrels from Montana to its manufacturing operations in the east, and the Kalispell facility would likely move or close. MRC prepared by purchasing the machinery it needed to make its own barrels. It also plans to begin making its own synthetic stocks. The new production capacity means MRC will need new workers, but not enough to cover everyone recently let go next door.
“We will probably hire a handful of guys,” Sipe says. “It’s not just that we’re trying to hire them. We are in a growth cycle right now that we have to hire more people. ... But if those guys have specific skill sets that fit our specific needs, obviously it’s an easy fit for us.”