A Fortune 500 company that plans to move its Bozeman manufacturing plant to Manhattan next year could deliver the economic boost the struggling town has been seeking for years.

Blackhawk Products, a subsidiary of the defense contractor Alliant Techsystems Inc., has broken ground on an 80,000-square-foot factory in Manhattan. The company could bring 175 jobs to Manhattan in the next few years.

The company makes accessories like backpacks and gun holsters for military, law enforcement, outdoors and corporate security applications. It currently operates a manufacturing facility east of Bozeman. It plans to move that operation to Manhattan in July 2012, company spokesman Jason Nash said.

Blackhawk is moving because it needs more space “for business growth and expansion,” Nash said.

Manhattan Mayor Tony Haag said he is excited about the company’s move.

“It’s a huge shot in the arm in many different ways. It’s going to affect our economy in a positive way on many different levels,” he said. “It’s going to affect our housing market; it’s going to create jobs in our community; it’s going to affect our tax base. I mean this thing is going to snowball many positive outcomes.”

The company is building in the Farmstead subdivision on the south edge of Manhattan, just off Interstate 90.

When Haag heard the news, he praised the company for choosing Manhattan and saying its decision will benefit both sides.

“The town of Manhattan needs this, and we need it in a bad way,” he said. “Manhattan’s not alone, but we’ve been through some trying times the last few years, and we’re still going through some things.

“But you know, if you keep your nose to the grindstone, you keep a positive attitude, you keep working, the tables start to turn in your favor,” he added. “Right now, this is something that’s going to help the tables turn in our favor.”

He said Blackhawk will benefit, too, with reduced impact fees and other incentives. He added that Manhattan has a first-class workforce.

“I don’t have to tell you the quality of people we have that live in this community,” Haag said. “What an asset to both parties — ATK Blackhawk and the citizens of Manhattan.”

Blackhawk, headquartered in Anoka, Minn., also manufactures products in Norfolk, Va., Southport, N.C., and Meridian, Idaho. It was founded in 1993 by a former Navy SEAL who said he witnessed equipment failures in a mine field in Iraq. ATK bought the company in April 2010, paying $172.3 million, according to its annual report.

“The company is committed to business growth and community involvement at all of its locations,” Nash said.


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