OXFORD – Mississippi Auto Arms owner Nathan Yow was one of the businessmen accompanying Gov. Phil Bryant and Mississippi Development Authority officials to Brazil last month.
The trip could mean a jump-start for Yow’s firearm business, leading to new jobs in Mississippi and in Brazil.
“They lined us with dealers that deal specifically with the military, and we met with the Brazilian Shooting Sports Foundation,” he said. “We’ve got a job that we’re working on; if we get the full potential of it, it’s worth about $20 million.”
Among the potential sales Yow pursued on the trip, he could end up licensing American firearms designs and processes to a Brazilian company, bypassing an 86 percent import tax.
Mississippi Auto Arms retails and exports several brands of firearms from its Oxford store as well as assembling AR-15 and AK-variant semiautomatic rifles along with AK-design shotguns and accessories from premanufactured parts.
By year’s end Yow intends to have a manufacturing site somewhere in Mississippi to build 80 percent of the company’s own parts while buying the rest from nearby companies.
“The more you can keep in-house, the more you can control the process and the quality,” he said.
Yow had several advantages in seeking export deals or joint ventures in Brazil. One was his mother’s fluency in Portuguese from years as a missionary there and his own ability to speak a bit of it.
“They ask if she’s a translator, and she says, ‘No, I’m his mom,’ and starts talking to them in Portuguese,” Yow said. “It gives you a little credibility when someone in your family or institution can talk to them in their native tongue.”
As an attorney, Yow can also navigate through export law – an area whose potential criminal penalties for mistakes scares off many would-be competitors. That ability has already netted Mississippi Auto Arms the exclusive export business for one ammunition manufacturer, he noted.
Yet another advantage Yow has discovered for his exporting efforts is national cachet. Although TV and movies often portray the use and effects of firearms inaccurately, Hollywood nevertheless makes American-made guns a desirable commodity overseas.
“The Chinese can make a particular item for $100, and if we do it, it’s going to be about $600,” Yow said. “But knowing their life is going to be at stake, they’re going to want the superior product with that ‘Made in America’ stamp. In unique, hard-to-find items, where quality is important, there’s a good value in ‘Made in USA.’”