By: Ryan Randall
Throughout Brevard County, there are manufacturers contributing to their industries on a local and national scale. Knight’s Enterprises, based out of Titusville, falls into the latter. The company is one of the nation’s premier small arms and electro-optics manufacturers, working with the military and law enforcement to provide state-of the-art weapons systems, accessories and night vision products.
Knight’s is the vision of C. Reed Knight, Jr., who has lived in Florida since a month after his birth in August of 1945. The military was prominent in his family, as his father was in the U.S. Army Air Corps near the end of World War II. However, the Knight family were citrus farmers, and it was during his time on the farm Knight found and developed his passion for maintaining and developing mechanical equipment. Knight would modify and race cars and, over time, expand his interest into firearms, starting out as a collector and competitive shooter.
Through meeting people from government entities during the shooting competitions, Knight was asked by the organizations to repair rare and out-of-production weapons such as the Stoner 63, a rifle produced by Eugene Stoner, a firearms designer who also produced the M-16. Knight developed a relationship with Stoner, who gave Knight extra parts to fix the guns. After repairing the weapons, Knight became a “go-to” to work on different projects for the U.S. Special Forces, developing the revolutionary rail adapter system, which allowed for different accessories to be added to the weapon, thus saving money on buying new guns.
Knight’s Armament Company was founded in 1982. Through quality work, a deep passion and networking with government entities, the company became a main weapons contractor for the U.S. Special Forces, as its role changed over time.
Knight’s Enterprises expanded from approximately 75 employees in Vero Beach to 300-350 in Titusville, most within a 30-mile radius.
Moving to Brevard County
After 9/11, the government informed the company it would need to double its capacity for manufacturing. Having been in Indian River County from the beginning, the company ran into challenges from the city trying to expand its facility quickly. KAC began the process of looking to move its facility out of the county, possibly out of the state.
The company was able to secure a dormant building in Titusville previously used by Boeing. KAC went from a 50,000-60,000 sq.-ft. facility in Vero Beach to a 500,000 sq.-ft. building in Titusville, according to Vice President C. Reed Knight III. While the building was much larger than what they projected, the ability to keep the family in Vero and commute was beneficial. Another positive to moving to Titusville was the manufacturing and industrial workforce the company would inherit in Brevard, in addition to support from county leaders.
“When we came up here, we not only looked at the resources of the community but also the support of the community,” Knight III said. “I can remember going to these meetings with Brevard County administrators and thinking this is such a different culture of them wanting to help us.”
Knight’s Enterprises expanded from approximately 75 employees in Vero Beach to 300-350 in Titusville, most within a 30-mile radius. Given the nature of mass hires and layoffs with government contracts, Knight’s tries to avoid those issues by utilizing jobs that can be done after the contracts. The company also uses different recruiting methods. In addition to job fairs and online ads, Knight’s is heavily involved in community outreach. Knight III said the company also works with local high school STEM programs and colleges to develop skills that could be used in manufacturing at the company. Knight’s general manager, Art Hoelke, is engaged with the Brevard County Public School System and Eastern Florida State College to ensure the curriculums and machining processes taught are valued skills that lead to an immediately employable workforce for the local manufacturing sector.
Features and Future
In addition to the military, the other markets the company focuses on are the commercial and foreign markets. The company designs and manufactures the M1110 SASS rifle and a line of thermal and night vision devices. Everything at Knight’s is built in-house, allowing it to respond quickly, and the company will develop technology for the military to test before it is requested.
“We’d come up with the idea, develop the concept and deliver it, and then the customers would come out for a requirement,” said Knight III.
Knight’s Enterprises was born from C. Reed Knight, Jr.’s passion for gun design, manufacturing and supporting the military. Knight’s ability to adapt and respond quickly has allowed the company to continue to evolve and succeed in times when other weapon manufacturers struggled due to the economy or lack of government programs. As Knight, Jr. continues to look to the future, he is involving his sons more heavily in the family business. Knight III says, “The goal is to make the business thrive so that my son, or my son’s son are active in a company like this for their entire lives.”
The company also works with local high schools and colleges to ensure valued skills are taught, leading to an immediately employable workforce for the local manufacturing sector