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Continuing a Legacy: A Third Generation Entrepreneur is Bringing Manufacturing to Chatham County

Continuing a Legacy: A Third Generation Entrepreneur is Bringing Manufacturing to Chatham County

Story by Jenny Lynn Anderson  |  Photography by Emily Roscher

 

A surname is more than just a name. It tells a story and gives insight into a person’s ancestry.
In the case of Salih Zeki Avci, it speaks to his heritage and the genesis of his company, Medef Defence.

The surname “Avci” in Turkish means “hunter.” And indeed, his grandfather, Salih Zeki Avci, was a hunter and the founder of an ammunition company in Ankara, Turkey.

Now the company has expanded its manufacturing operations to west Chatham County. Salih proudly represents the third generation—bringing manufacturing to Georgia and opening an 18,000-square-foot facility near Pooler in March.

“In the early 1980s, my grandfather created the company from his great love and hobby of hunting. He was an excellent hunter and was very popular. He taught young people about the sport and was serious about the ethics of sustainable hunting,” explains Salih.

An expert at loading shot shells, his grandfather developed his hobby into a profession. Salih’s father, an engineer, continued to grow the company, and today, Medef Defence produces a wide range of common calibers used popularly in competition settings as well as tactical scenarios for law enforcement and military.

“The decision to expand our manufacturing operations in 2022 to Chatham County was an easy one. We were already serving as an ammunition distribution center fulfilling orders to dealers throughout the United States. And we have an e-commerce store that sells direct to consumers,” says Salih.

Salih holds a degree in business administration from University of Kansas and an MBA from the University of Greenwich in London.

In 2011 the U.S. government granted Salih a Fulbright Scholarship to further his education on wastewater treatment and reduction management. This two-month training scholarship program, while centralized in Gainesville, Florida at the University of Florida, allowed him to visit and observe some of the most successful wastewater treatment facilities in both California and Florida.

This training was paramount for Salih, as his family business is the operation of manufacturing facilities. His family and their company as a whole strive for environmental safety and this training helped him put their most precise foot forward in leading the world in wastewater and pollution reduction management.

Salih has used his education to fine-tune his business practices and his overall experience to focus on a mission, raising awareness of the importance of recycling our limited water sources with exceptional care.

Taking the Company to New Heights

At age 39, the entrepreneur is primed to take his family-owned company to new heights. The company’s product lines include high quality ammunition for armed forces, law enforcement and civil guns, hunting bullets and clay shooting ammunition.

“As you can imagine, shipping goods from Turkey to the USA is really expensive and what we saw in the market is that American people like to see American-made products as well as ammunition. Also, the port of Savannah and the state’s broad logistics network allows us to efficiently reach the domestic and global market,” he says. “We plan to hire 50 people within three years, which will include engineers, machine operators, sales and administrative employees,” notes Salih. “Being located in Georgia will give us a competitive edge because we’re close to the port and can bring in raw materials through Atlanta’s distribution line.”

Market Growth

The market size of the Guns & Ammunition Manufacturing industry in the US has grown 6.9% per year on average between 2017 and 2022. In particular, Georgia continues to attract global businesses like Medef Defence.

According to National Shooting Sports Foundation data, Georgia is among the country’s top 10 states for firearm manufacturing. Allen Mathews, a gunsmith in Statesboro, Georgia, notes one of the leading reasons Georgia continues to attract ammunition manufacturing firms is due to its friendly gun policies and skilled labor supply.

“Georgia has seen a number of ammunition companies expand into our state. In the last two years, Remington has relocated its headquarters to LaGrange and Norma Precision Ammunition, a subsidiary of Beretta Holding S.A., has relocated its U.S. headquarters, manufacturing site, warehousing and distribution operations to Chatham County,” says Mathews.

“Turkey has a long history of arms manufacturing and since they are an ally, we’ve had a lengthy relationship with them importing guns and ammunition over the years. Seeing them moving their manufacturing here makes sense because of tax laws, logistics and reduction of costs,” Mathews says.

Mathews also notes the impact of the firearms sector on job creation. “This is a win-win for our economy. Both directly and indirectly, it creates a total of 9,045 jobs in Georgia,” he adds.

Looking to the Future

As he looks to the future, Salih is specifically aiming for product development. “The defense and ammunition industry has really opened up and the technology can be developed,” he explains.

In the United States, he can find raw materials, components, and parts and can reach the technology easier. “We employ a veteran who served in the Special Forces for the guns and navigation who leads our research and development and we have about five different products in my mind to develop,” says the CEO.

Currently, Medef Defence produces a variety of shot shells, as well as common rifle and pistol calibers. Options will likely expand as research and development allow production technology to meet the demands of the ever-growing market.

Salih admits it is a very delicate industry with enormous responsibility. “There is an ideal here where we must develop and make effective, good products, and furthermore meet these products with the right people for the right reason,” he explains. “Every day we face obstacles—opening up this facility, working in such a dynamic, fluctuating market, producing mistake-free products, building products from scratch–it’s very important to achieve quality every single step of the way,” he adds.

Nonetheless, these challenges give him passion every day. “When I came to the United States from Cyprus to attend college, I was profoundly affected by the experience. I felt the power of freedom. I saw the variety of ethnic groups and vitality of people serving for the same aim, same purpose with freedom of speech and it inspired me to work hard for this. I come to work every day with this in mind and I don’t take any of this for granted.”

For more information about Medef Defence, visit medefence.net

 

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