Brownells, the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools with headquarters located in Montezuma, was recently awarded Iowa Farm Bureau’s “Renew Rural Iowa Entrepreneur Award.”
Iowa Farm Bureau is a coalition of Iowans dedicated to promoting values and quality of life in the agricultural sector. Their “Renew Rural Iowa Entrepreneur Award” was awarded to a business that showed a commitment to continued rural Iowa job growth. This award was part of Iowa Farm Bureau’s new initiative, Renew Rural Iowa, a program working to support new and existing businesses through education and financial mentoring.
“[Brownells’] business is 75 years old this year and it’s grown from a grandpa’s house into the largest employer in the county,” said Laura Mannatt, Executive Director of the Poweshiek Iowa Development Group, an organization that was present at the award reception. “It is still family owned. They continue to grow their product line and increase number of jobs that they provide.”
Brownells has grown from a small-town business into a large company that currently employs over 400 workers. In 1939, Bob Brownell, founder of Brownells, was operating a Shell gas station in Montezuma. A lifelong machinist, his hobby of fixing pistols for friends and townspeople gradually turned into a home-operated gunsmithing shop. By 1947, Brownell introduced his first catalog for customers to main-in orders of gunsmithing tools. Most recently, Brownells is expanding its facilities to a new location in Grinnell this spring.
“They adapted to the market,” Mannatt said. “They started as gun suppliers and expanded to areas such as archery or survival supplies. And they also started off as a more catalog mail order business and evolved into an internet catalog. Now they are one of the largest gunsmith suppliers in the world. They are truly entrepreneurs.”
Mannatt also noted that Brownells has significantly contributed to the economy of Poweshiek County, a large factor as to why it received the award.
“They are one of the largest employers [in the county],” Mannatt said. “I think they have around 400 employees. They also have facilities in Grinnell and Montezuma. They not only hire employees but also considerably pay taxes. They are very dedicated to giving back to the community. They definitely contribute in more ways than business.”