Brownells, the Grinnell-based international gun manufacturer and firearm supplier, was one of Iowa’s leading recipients of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
Data released Monday by the federal agency shows that Brownells was one of 50 Iowa businesses and nonprofit groups, mostly comprised of hospitals, manufacturing or agricultural corporations, to receive a loan in the range of $5 to $10 million — the highest amount distributed in the state. The major supplier of firearm accessories declined to answer how many jobs the loan helped them retain while most of the other Iowa top loan recipients saved an average of 288 employees.
The recent release of the SBA loan numbers has been subject to controversy as a number of President Donald Trump’s donors, businesses owned by members of Congress and large Wall Street-backed supply chains were notable grantees of the $660 billion small-business relief program. The PPP’s intent was to offer forgivable loans to smaller businesses in order that they stay afloat and maintain employees during the U.S. economic slowdown due to the pandemic.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, Frank Brownell, Co-Chairman of the Board, donated around $5,687 to Trump and his campaign. Brownells CEO Pete Brownell, a onetime president of the National Rifle Association, often contributes to Joni Ernst and Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ congressional funds, the National Shooting Sports foundation PAC and the Republican Party of Iowa.
In March, several Iowa gun stores said they were having difficulty meeting an increased demand for ammo. Nationally, firearms sales hit record levels in recent months. Brownells said they saw an uptick in purchases from across the country as people stocked up to “protect themselves” from potential paranoia and unrest during the pandemic.
Ryan Repp, Brownells’ director of communications told the Des Moines Register that California, Texas and New York are the top states for ammo sales on the company’s website. “We buy ammo no differently than the average consumer would buy toilet paper,” he said
In total, 58,463 Iowa companies and nonprofit groups were granted PPP loans, 52,527 of which received the lowest level loan of under $150,000. 5,936 loans were granted to at $150,000 and up.
by Isabella Murray
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