Lehigh Defense, LLC, based in Quakertown, Pa., is expanding to Rapid City. After considering South Dakota, Texas and Minnesota, owner David Fricke found South Dakota to be the ideal location for his company’s expansion. And in the Rushmore Region, a hotbed for the firearms industry, he found Rapid City to be the perfect fit.
“David made the right decision to expand his company to South Dakota,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “It goes without saying, when it comes to the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry, South Dakota is an ideal state to run a business. But more than that, our reasonable business climate allows businesses to not only earn a profit, but keep it.”
Fricke’s business began in 1999 as Millennium Manufacturing, specializing in the design and production of components used in the firearms, electronics, medical and aerospace markets. In 2011, due to significant growth in the firearms sector of the operation, the company was split and Lehigh Defense was created to focus on the production of firearms components and projectiles. Lehigh began producing high-quality bullets using advanced computer numeric control (CNC) Swiss machining equipment, producing a more accurate and improved performing bullet. Steady growth year after year created a need for his company’s expansion.
“We’ve been doubling in size every year,” Fricke said. “Business can be done just about anywhere, and I took that into consideration. But ultimately I decided South Dakota had the best business climate for my business to succeed.
“The first time I met a rep from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development was in January at the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas. As a business owner, the opportunity to meet with customers, new, old and potential, all in one week, under the same roof is huge. It’s a unique chance to meet and develop your vendors, too. Then I was invited to attend the Governor’s Annual Buffalo Roundup in September. I was, and still am, impressed with how people here welcome new businesses to the state. This is going to be a good thing for our company.”
“Lehigh Defense is a natural fit in Rapid City and the Rushmore Region, since they’ve already done work with several companies in our established firearms industry. We are happy to welcome the company to the community and look forward to its successful growth here in the years ahead,” said Benjamin Snow, president of Rapid City Economic Development Partnership. “Our skilled workforce and workforce development programs will ensure that David will find and train the right employees. For anyone looking for a career in the firearms and shooting sports industry, it doesn’t get much better than the Rushmore Region.”
Fricke also serves as an occupational advisor at a vocational school in Pennsylvania, where he assists in the advanced manufacturing program teaching students how to use the machines.
“Some of the students I teach just need some direction and perspective in life,” said Fricke. “It’s rewarding to watch these young adults grow and turn into leaders in the classroom, at home and in the workplace. “
Fricke says he takes on a minimum of one student per year as an intern in hopes of hiring them as full-time staff.
“The manufacturing processes we deploy in our operation require a knowledgeable and high-skilled work force with a strong background in engineering and math. Our business is focused on applying the highest level of computer-aided technology to the manufacturing process. This skill level then provides for high paying positions with an excellent benefit package. Our goal is to create a core CNC machining skill base that effects future generations in learning this trade.”
Fricke says he’ll begin with hiring and training in the Rapid City location with the new facility becoming operational Dec. 1. Planned employment is seven positions the first year expanding to 14 positions by the end of three years.
For more information about Lehigh Defense, visit www.lehighdefense.com.
Rapid City Economic Development Partnership