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Taking a shot
By Jackie Zimmerman/The Red River Sun—
An empty building on Avenue B in Childress will soon be humming with the sounds of machines manufacturing firearm components.
Witt Machine and Tool Co. is moving its entire operation, along with three employees, from Fort Garland, Colo. to Childress on Aug. 20.
The plan is to hire five employees initially and within three months expand by purchasing additional CNC machines and adding another four employees to have 12 on in Childress, said Robert Higgins, the company’s Lead Gun Monkey.
The five-year-old company manufactures muzzle brakes, silencers and other firearms related components along with a line of integrally suppressed AR 15/10 uppers in any caliber, as well as integral Remington 700 hunting rifles, and Ruger Precision rifles that were recently featured in Recoil Magazine.
While it was founded in Fort Garland, company officials said several factors hindered it staying in Colorado.
“Witt Machine & Tool has been in desperate need of expansion for over a year,” Higgins said. “We had outgrown our building, exceeded the limit of the immediate power grid and began to become limited by the local governing bodies.
“When efforts to stay in the community in which the company was started, failed, we began to look elsewhere,” he said. “After an extensive search we found that the Mashburn Realty and the city of Childress had a building that would allow Witt Machine to continue its current growth trend.”
Doc Smith, executive director of the Childress Municipal Development District, Office of Economic Development, said Witt will move into the Ivesco building at 200 Avenue B SW with Larry Johnson at First Bank and Trust providing the financing.
The 29,255-square-foot building has been vacant or underutilized for several years, Smith said.
“The development district provided a $20,000 grant to Witt Machine and Tool to help offset the cost of relocating the manufacturing equipment,” Smith said.
The funding was much needed, Higgins said, to help overcome the costs of moving the 58,000 pounds of delicate CNC machines used to manufacture the firearm components.
“Their assistance and logistical support were invaluable to our company’s move,” Higgins said. “Doc Smith was an immense help in assisting us in finding just the right plan to get our company transplanted to a much more beneficial location.
“Diane Mashburn was vital in getting us into a building that would allow us to continue our growth trend.”
Smith said the CMDD appreciates Witt considering Childress as a place to grow its firearms accessory manufacturing business.
“Having Witt choose Childress is an important first step toward bringing manufacturing jobs back to our community. We have been in discussions with companies in the Texas panhandle as well as several out-of-state companies from high tax, COVID hot spots about considering Childress. Having Witt chose Childress is an important milestone in our discussions with these prospects.”
Witt Machine and Tool was founded by Ken Wittekiend, a member of the Marine Corps Rifle Team, who served 10 years and three combat deployments in the Middle East with the U.S. Marine Corps.
After leaving the Marines, Wittekiend moved to Fort Garland and began taking classes as he determined his next move. A chance sighting of CNC machines in a building at a community college peaked his interest so he enrolled in classes. After completing the machining classes, Wittekiend worked at a machine shop before purchasing his own CNC hobby mill and beginning to write his own programs.
His first program was to build a clamp-on muzzle brake, which became the piece that started the whole business, Wittekiend said. “We don’t really have competition in this market. Each break is custom cut to the customer’s rifle because all rifle barrels are different.”
With a longer list of products now offered, Witt Machine and Tool has been experiencing tremendous growth through website sales and, in just the past 18 months, they have had a rapid increase in orders from police departments, sheriff offices and dealers, Higgins said.
“We are seeing growth in excess of 25 percent per year,” he said. “We are having another great period of growth due to small suppressors and SME Sound Mitigation Equipment.”
Witt Machine and Tool products can be found and purchased on its website, wittmachine.net.