Court filings are raising concerns for the future of a $553 million investment planned for Blount County.
Advanced Munitions International (AMI) announced its move to Alcoa last year. Then, company officials told WBIR 10News they planned to break ground in March – though that hasn't happened yet.
AMI’s owner and operators Jim and Jeff Antich also run another company, known as Advanced Tactical Armament Concepts (ATAC). In September, an ATAC plant in Payson, Arizona was forced to close its doors for about a month, citing financing issues.
Now, both companies are the targets of federal lawsuits. In Nevada, former ATAC president Mark Kresser claims fraud, breach of contract and conspiracy against AMI and ATAC.
Kresser was to be AMI’s man-on-the-ground in Blount County. He says AMI didn’t uphold the terms of their agreement, and he was fired.
He claims he discovered during his tenure at ATAC that the companies “…did not have the financial ability, resources, or commitments to construct a several-hundred-million dollar manufacturing plant in Alcoa, Tennessee…"
"Any type of comment to that effect is untrue and false,” said Mary Beth West, who handles PR for AMI. “The financing piece is certainly not an easy one. It's complicated any time you're going to open what will be a half a billion dollar facility and it does involve quite a few processes, quite a few complexities and they're managing through that in a very purposeful way."
"As with any major project in excess of $300 million in its initial Phase One development, there are many elements to manage on a relatively short timeline,” said AMI Executive Chairman Jim Antich in a statement. “However, we feel confident that AMI is well-poised to stay on track with its agreement with local and state governmental entities in Tennessee.”
In a separate lawsuit filed in Arizona, Scottsdale Firearms claims ATAC does not have the trademark rights to the HPR, BLACK OPS and EMCOM branding used on their ammunition.
For their new headquarters, AMI purchased about 235 acres of land at Louisville Loop and Proffit Spring Rd. in Alcoa from the Blount County Industrial Development Board for $1. They were also awarded a $6.05 million FastTrack grant by the state, though none of that money has not been disbursed yet.
Jeff Muir with the Blount Partnership said AMI has been up front about their and ATAC’s legal proceedings over the past few months, and he has no concerns about the promises of the project coming to fruition.
“From our perspective there aren’t any because the Tennessee and Arizona operations are totally different things,” said Muir.
Muir said though the project has not broken ground as planned, they are not legally behind schedule yet – their contract gives AMI two years (until October 2017) to begin construction.
“We have no reason to believe they’re not coming because they’re been forthright in everything they’ve done with us and talked with us about so we feel they’re still coming,” he said.
Muir noted that if there were to be an issue, the county is still protected by the recovery and repayment terms of the contract with AMI.
“It’s not like everybody will be left high and dry,” said Muir. “We do have remedies against that, and that goes with most major projects that we do.”