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Posted: 6/21/2011 7:01:23 AM EDT

WINDHAM - The announcement last December that Bushmaster Firearms would be closing its Windham plants was seen as a major blow to the town, as it came at a time when several local businesses had recently shuttered.

But more than six months later, those bad memories are just that, with former Bushmaster owner Dick Dyke announcing Tuesday that he is starting a new rifle manufacturing company: Windham Weaponry, Inc.

Dyke, who owns the Windham Business Park off Route 302, started Bushmaster in 1976 and built it into a recognized leader in military and law enforcement weaponry producing AR-15 and M-16 rifle models known for their accuracy.

The former Windham resident who now lives in Naples and owns the Naples Golf and Country Club as well as other enterprises in the area, sold the company five years ago to Freedom Group International, which also purchased Remington. In a cost-cutting move, the company closed Bushmaster's Windham location in March and moved operations to New York, laying off all 65-70 employees in the process.

Wanting to focus on the AR-15 and M-16 models that made the company profitable and well respected - and, more importantly, knowing his five-year non-compete clause had fortuitously run out in early April - Dyke is excited to be able to provide jobs and bring gun manufacturing back to the area.

"He hadn't any intention of doing this, but once Freedom Group International decided to not renew their lease and move the company down to New York to the Remington plant, Dick knew he had the plant here and the people here to make this work," said Allen Faraday, vice president of administration and human resources for Dyke's various companies.

Speaking for Dyke, who was not available for comment but personally sent out press releases to media outlets on Tuesday, Faraday said the plant will reopen in July with 23 or 24 employees, all of whom he said will eventually become full-time as manufacturing ramps up. Eventually the goal is to rehire all of the former Bushmaster employees who once worked at the plant, Faraday said.

"They're ecstatic," Faraday said of the employees coming back. "They are so pleased to have a very good job."

Local business leaders are likewise excited to see the resurrection of quality manufacturing jobs in town.

Allan Phinney, president of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and owner of Custom Shingles and Sign Company, said, "I think it's wonderful. If you add that many more people into the job market, it's good for everybody."

Phinney also praised Dyke for propping up the business community.

"He has always shown he has a strong community spirit," Phinney said. "He really shows he supports the community in everything he does."

Windham's Economic Development Director Tom Bartell likewise said Dyke's announcement "is great" and that Dyke has "really come through," referring to Dyke's pledge when Bushmaster announced its closing in December to look into starting a new enterprise to help laid-off employees. "He followed through with what he said he would try to do, which is great for the region, great for Windham and great for the employees who were left behind," said Bartell.

Neighbors of the Windham Weaponry, who went to the town to complain about excessive noise emanating from the test-firing range in the Grondin pit behind Bushmaster, will be happy to hear that the new company has no intention of testing weapons in Windham. Faraday said, "We have no intention to use the test range. We will not be doing that."

Faraday added that if the company needs to do outdoor testing it would use the shooting range owned by Scarborough Fish & Game Association and located in Scarborough.

Link Posted: 6/21/2011 7:19:32 AM EDT
It's not like there's a need another AR15 manufacturer but I'm sure Windham will welcome the new jobs and industry.


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