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Firearms maker Beretta U.S.A. has decided to move all of its manufacturing from Maryland to the new production facility it plans to build in Gallatin.

Beretta announced earlier this year it would invest $45 million in building a a new production plant in Gallatin for new guns, a move that could create as many as 300 jobs. On Tuesday, the company said it would relocate all of its manufacturing to Tennessee.

Jeff Reh, Beretta's general counsel and vice general manager, said the company now plans to move up to 160 positions from Maryland to Gallatin.

He expects Beretta to reach the roughly 300 jobs planned here faster than the three to five years the company announced when it revealed its expansion plans in January. But Reh couldn't say whether there will be an overall increase in the number of Beretta jobs at the Gallatin site.

James Fenton, the Gallatin Economic Development Agency's executive director, said he expects the company to fill the 300 jobs over two years.

"It's a huge endorsement for the city of Gallatin," he said. "They haven't even broken ground yet, but they've already decided to accelerate their timeline. They obviously feel confident they will be able to find their workforce and this will be a very good place for them."

Beretta is expected to purchase 100 acres at the Gallatin Industrial Center for the production plant. Groundbreaking for the facility — part of the $45 million investment — is tentatively set for the end of August.

Reh said Beretta expects to have the 160,000-square-foot structure built and for the company to start relocating machinery to Gallatin in May.

Earlier this year, Beretta officials said they would use the Gallatin facility only for new machinery and production of new products while continue other manufacturing in Accokeek, Md. The change now means that more engineers and research and development staff will be involved in the move to Sumner County, Fenton said.

Beretta said its decision to move all manufacturing to Tennessee was driven by the possibility of new restrictions on its ability to make guns in Maryland. Lawmakers in Maryland have considered laws that would have prohibited the manufacturing of firearms.

"While we had originally planned to use the Tennessee facility for new equipment and for production of new product lines only, we have decided that it is more prudent from the point of view of our future welfare to move the Maryland production lines in their entirety to the new Tennessee facility," said Jeff Cooper, general manager for Beretta U.S.A.

Beretta said the transition in Gallatin won't occur until 2015 and will be managed to avoid disruption to deliveries to customers. Production of the U.S. Armed Forces M9 9mm pistol will continue at the Maryland facility until current orders from the U.S. Armed Forces are filled, the company said.

Reh said there's a good chance Beretta will start making those pistols in Gallatin in the future.

Beretta will discuss with employees in Maryland opportunities to relocate to Tennessee or stay with the company while production continues there, officials said. The company will keep office, administrative and executive support functions at the Accokeek, Md. facility. It also plans to keep its distribution center in Virginia.

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