Beretta, one of the world's leading gun manufacturers, will be establishing manufacturing operations in Gallatin, bringing more than 300 jobs to the region.

The company will invest upwards of $45 million to bring a manufacturing and research and development facility to Middle Tennessee, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Wednesday morning.

The company is expected to complete construction on the facility this year and will make firearms at the new Gallatin plant for both their sporting and tactical product lines.

While Gallatin has added 350 jobs in the past year through expansion of existing employers, such as The Gap and ABC Fuels Group, this represents a major new corporate player in Gallatin, officials said.

"It's a spectacular opportunity for Gallatin, and it allows for the visibility that Gallatin deserves," said James Fenton, executive director of the Gallatin Economic Development Agency. "It's certainly the most prestigious announcement I've had the opportunity to be involved with."

Beretta is the world's oldest manufacturing dynasty, operating since 1526 in Italy. The company is privately owned and operated by members of the 15th and 16th generations of the Beretta family. Beretta supplies quality sporting and self-defense firearms to consumers worldwide. The company manufactures the U.S. Armed Forces M-9 pistol, the standard sidearm of U.S. soldiers since 1985.

"I want to thank the Beretta family for their substantial investment in Tennessee and the 300 jobs they'll create in Sumner County," Haslam said. "Beretta is one of the world's great companies, and its commitment to excellence and Tennessee's rich history in manufacturing make today's announcement a great match as we continue toward our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs."

For much of the past year, Beretta has been scouting for locations for a manufacturing facility after the state of Maryland passed stricter gun legislation, company officials said. The family-owned, Italian company had expressed frustration about the new laws and said it might be looking for a new home for a factory currently located in Accokeek, Maryland.

While that factory will remain open, the company said it wanted to expand outside the state in the future.

Jeff Reh, general counsel for Beretta, said the company was looking a state that supported Second Amendment rights,and had other key attributes, including a competitive tax environment, good quality of life and was focused on corporate recruitment.

"From the moment when we started to consider a location outside of the state of Maryland for our manufacturing expansion, Governor Haslam and his economic development team did an excellent job demonstrating the benefits of doing business in Tennessee," said Franco Gussalli Beretta, executive vice-president and a director of Beretta U.S.A. Corp. "We are convinced we could find no better place than Tennessee to establish our new manufacturing enterprise."

Beretta is among a growing number of gun manufacturers nationwide that have been courted by states pitching themselves as more gun-friendly. The wooing came after a handful of states, including New York and Maryland, passed tougher gun control laws in the aftermath of last December's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six educators.

Last year, for instance, one of the nation's largest gun manufacturers, Remington Arms, has been looking at sites around Nashville for a potential corporate relocation or expansion that would likely include hundreds of manufacturing jobs.

The Madison, N.C.-based company, which is part of the nation's largest firearms company and has its largest plant in Ilion, N.Y., has scouted several sites around the Nashville region. Economic development officials said the company has not made a final decision about a possible move, but that it appears Nashville did not make the finalist list.

Remington's roughly 1,200-employee plant in Ilion makes rifles such as the Bushmaster semiautomatic weapon, which is now banned under New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

The Nashville area is already home to one major firearms manufacturer.

Barrett Firearms Manufacturing was founded in 1982, and currently has its operations in Murfreesboro. The company is primarily on high-end semi-automatic rifles, and founder Ronnie Barrett has been an outspoken advocate for gun manufacturers in the past.

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