Made in Hardin County: Ammo Company Stays on Target
Atlas Development Group Makes Its Mark on Firearms Industry
By Becca Owsley, The News Enterprise, Friday, January 27, 2017
While some industries move in and out of Hardin County, others are home grown. Atlas Development Group, located at 219 Enterprise Drive in Elizabethtown, is a local start-up company.
The Atlas Development Group manufacture bullet casings at their facility on Enterprise Drive in Elizabethtown.
Most of the original owners of Atlas worked for Remington with 20 or more years of experience in the industry. When Remington decided to relocate to Alabama, they were offered positions with the move but decided to stay in Hardin County and build their own business, CEO Brent Jarboe said.
There were several reasons to stay in the area, including family and community, Jarboe said.
After kicking around the idea of what they wanted to do, the core group met to talk about how they would start their own company and continue to work in the firearms and ammunition industry without having to relocate, he said.
They spent time strategizing to discover their marketable skills and what products they wanted to pursue. During this phase they met with the Elizabethtown Industrial Foundation and were provided incubator space in their building. They also got in touch with small business development locally as well as the Cabinet for Economic Development in Frankfort to find incentives and options for start up businesses in Kentucky.
The meetings helped point them in the right direction and develop a business plan, he said.
Jarboe said he is grateful for the city of Elizabethtown and the industrial foundation’s support as well as the state of Kentucky. He said he didn’t have a reason to think they would help, but they did.
He said he’s always loved Elizabethtown as a community but the help with developing Atlas really solidified his love for the area.
The plan was to offer consulting and produce cartridge brass that is manufactured at their location.
The boom in firearm sales has created more shooters and increased the need for ammunition, Jarboe said.
“It’s a consumable,” he said.
Jarboe said there was a market for it which is under served across the country.
The third tier to the business includes small business innovation research. That aspect has morphed since the business has moved along by using their research experience at Remington to write white papers for government grants.
Eventually, after getting established in the industry, Atlas owners want to create their own branded product, he said.
They separated with Remington in 2014 in time to attend an industry trade show to promote their own company. They left Remington under good terms and the company became one of Atlas’ first customers for consulting.
They were able to get business right away and secured a few contracts and letters of interest at the trade show.
Throughout 2015 they continued to do consulting work and found they had the expertise for product testing, Jarboe said.
With a management that has background in military and defense, companies used them to test products. Jarboe said they got to see a diverse group of products and found testing is a fun element of the job.
The product testing aspect of the business often varies. One example is an optic site they tested for environmental issues. The company wanted third-party validation to see if it was a real problem. Atlas developed an environmental chamber to test the product with a gambit of live fire tests, Jarboe said.
The company also does industry litigation and product liability. If a company needs an expert to see if there is a problem with the product, personal intelligence or something else, they perform a product failure analysis to provide unbiased data.
Equipment was ready for production in 2015 but they weren’t yet in a building locally. Atlas owners had to go to Utah to make the product. Atlas’ first product was shipped in February of 2016.
In May of 2016 they were able to move the equipment to Kentucky but used it in a rented space.
They broke ground on their current 10,000-square foot facility in December of 2015 and moved in August of 2016.
“We finally moved out of Rick’s basement across the way to have our own place,” he joked of leaving the incubator space at the industrial foundation.
Production began at the new facility late last December.
Cartridge brass starts out as a small brass cup and they make their own tweaks on it according to their own specifications. It is run in a batch process. Depending on the caliber, 400 to 600 pieces are run per batch.
The brass progresses through eight machines including washers and ovens.
It will finish as a cartridge, not loaded ammunition.
Cartridges are sold to the original equipment manufacturer market. On down the road they want to sell a product branded themselves.
Currently the company runs one shift but plans are to start a second shift in the middle of the year.
A long-term goal is to produce loaded ammunition but that’s a three-to five-year goal and when they expand to a different building. Another long-term goal is to create their own firearms and accessories.
Atlas maintains seven original owners and the line has a supervisor and two workers per shift to load machines and keep the product going.
By the end of the year, owners hope to have 18 full time employees on staff, he said.
The owners have gone from just being a part of a business to running a business and Jarboe said it’s been a transition. Along with the things they are used to in firearms, they’ve had to focus on other things like human resources and accounting but it’s part of business, he said.
Jarboe said he was amazed Atlas has gone from an idea into a building and a manufacturing line in such a short time.
“It’s been an interesting two years now,” he said.
Becca Owsley can be reached at 270-505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with permission from The News Enterprise.