The saga surrounding a proposed manufacturing facility in West Virginia continues after all.
It was announced Thursday that Ranger Scientific — the high-grade ammunition company that has been trying to build a factory in the Kanawha Valley since 2016 — will receive a $7.5 million federal loan. The money is a Business and Industry guaranteed loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It will go toward purchasing land, renovations and equipment while also providing working capital. Phase 1 of the two-phase project — which company and government officials say will create 400 jobs — will cost $22 million and is slated to be finished in April 2021.
“This is a totally new opportunity for diversification,” said Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission. “This is the most significant new opportunity for the upper Kanawha Valley in a quarter of a century.”
Thursday’s announcement marks another chapter in a story that began with much fanfare but, many assumed, was finished years ago without creating anything tangible.
Plans were initially touted in May 2016 for a $41.5 million ammunition factory on a reclaimed mine site near Riverside High School, in eastern Kanawha County. But a groundbreaking planned 90 days after the announcement never happened for several reasons, including environmental roadblocks, logistical issues and changes in the economy.
“We might have been a little bit naive about how big of a deal this was going to be for West Virginia,” Ranger Scientific CEO Dan Pearlson said. “But it takes a lot of time to cross all of the t’s and dot all of the i’s correctly and thoroughly.”
Pearlson said the project will be based on 1,075 acres, most of which will be mountainside land overlooking Riverside High School, near Belle. Also being acquired is the former Montgomery High School. Plans are to have a multimillion-dollar renovation of that building completed by the end of April 2021. It is to serve as the initial factory floor while Phase 2 is under construction and also house administration offices.
When finished, the factory will mass produce high-grade rifle ammunition that Ranger Scientific touts as being twice as accurate as other comparable forms of ammunition.
“It’s a case of dogged persistence,” Carper said. “The project was difficult and met with countless — and I mean countless — roadblocks. At the end of the day, nobody ever gave up. If economic development was so easy, then everything would be developed.”