The National Rifle Association, a gun rights organization, is sticking to its plan to relocate its headquarters from Virginia to Texas as it engages in a legal fight related to its activities as a nonprofit.
The NRA is working with Colliers International to help it lease and potentially buy an office building in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for its new headquarters. The organization is active in Texas, scheduling its 2024 annual meeting to in Dallas next May after holding its 2022 annual meeting in Houston. The Lone Star State is home to more than 400,000 of the NRA’s more than 5 million members.
“Texas is the association’s number one option” for its potential headquarters relocation, Andrew Arulanandam, a managing director in the NRA’s public affairs, told CoStar News in an email. “The state has the highest NRA membership rates and is home to many NRA events. Although we have not completed our strategic process, Texas heads the list.”
The NRA filed for bankruptcy protection in early 2021 to reorganize its business and register its nonprofit status in Texas amid litigation with the attorney general in New York, where the organization has been a registered nonprofit for more than 150 years — even though its headquarters office has been in Fairfax, Virginia. A Texas bankruptcy judge dismissed the industry group’s petition for Chapter 11, saying it was not filed for the bankruptcy court’s intended purposes to help solve financial challenges — rather than for avoiding regulatory issues.
During the bankruptcy proceedings, the NRA told the judge it was specifically looking at real estate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for its new corporate home before the petition was dismissed. The NRA is still marketing its corporate office building in Fairfax, according to the NRA’s Arulanandam.
Now New York Attorney General Letitia James is proceeding toward a trial after filing a lawsuit against the NRA in August 2020. She alleges the organization engaged in illegal conduct by diverting millions of dollars from the charitable mission of the association for the personal benefit of senior leadership, close associates and friends.
Earlier this month, the New York State Supreme Court denied motions by the NRA to use previously rejected counterclaims in its defense in the upcoming trial, which could begin by this fall.
It is unclear if the ongoing legal battle in New York could affect the NRA’s future real estate decisions. Or if shootings, like the May incident at an outlet mall in the Dallas area that killed eight people, including three children, could have an any effect on the NRA’s plans.
A relocation of its offices to Texas could be an expensive proposition for the NRA. The organization and other non-taxed nonprofits are unable to take advantage of traditional economic incentives, such as property tax abatements, that entities often seek in return for relocating which are popular with Texas municipalities. But they can still seek some sort of help in return for bringing jobs to an area.
“Tax abatements are off the table and property taxes are irrelevant” when it comes to nonprofit groups getting incentives, said King White, president and CEO of Dallas-based Site Selection Group. White is not working with the NRA on any economic incentives but has previously worked with other nonprofit groups such as the American Red Cross and AAA on various incentive packages.
The NRA “could qualify for the Texas Enterprise Fund because they would be creating jobs, but it would depend on the wages. Without being able to use a property tax abatement as an incentive, municipalities would have to be more creative,” King told CoStar News.
To qualify for a grant through the Texas Enterprise Fund, known as the state’s deal-closing fund, a project needs the economic development backing of a local municipality willing to financially support the project with economic incentives of its own.
In the case of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, the nonprofit industry group made a $30 million commitment to develop its national headquarters, which it dubbed “the headquarters of golf” in Frisco, Texas, in the Dallas area. PGA’s real estate project was offered incentives that could exceed more than $160 million from the city of Frisco. The Texas Enterprise Fund later offered the industry group an award of $1.5 million.
The NRA did not respond to requests to comment on whether the organization is waiting on potential incentives before making a decision on its new headquarters.