TRENTON, Maine — Citing an uptick in orders, The Hinckley Co. is calling about 80 people back to work to help manufacture and service luxury power and sailing yachts.
In the past year, the sagging economy forced the company to announce layoffs of approximately 100 workers at its local production facility as orders dwindled to a trickle. But according to an executive with the firm, Hinckley expects to rehire 80 to 85 people, most of them craftspeople, over the next three months.
Phil Bennett, vice president for sales, said Tuesday the positions being refilled are spread throughout the company, which also has brokerage, owner and service operations in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island. He said that 30 to 40 of the refilled positions would be at the company’s production facility in Trenton.
Bennett said the company ended up not having to lay off as many people as it thought it would and let go approximately 90 people in Trenton in the past year. He said business for Hinckley has always come and gone in waves and that the recent layoffs were a natural and necessary, though unfortunate, response to last fall’s financial crisis.
“We saw a real squall coming and, just like when you’re on the ocean, we had to shorten our sails,” Bennett said. “We ended up having a difficult time, just like everyone in the luxury market did last year.”
The more recent rise in orders represents some decreasing unease with the national and global economies, according to Bennett. Customers who put orders or projects on hold last fall are feeling more confident with their finances, he said, and are concluding that they cannot put their lives on hold indefinitely.
The timing of Hinckley refilling positions means many laid-off workers who had to find seasonal summer jobs elsewhere will be able to resume work at the firm without experiencing any additional long periods of unemployment, he said.
But the refilled positions are not a sign that Hinckley or the boat industry in general has fully recovered from the recession, according to Bennett. Hinckley is doing better than many boat builders because people who have disposable income are drawn more to Hinckley products than they are to other boats, he said.
“In recoveries of this kind, people have a flight to quality,” Bennett said. “The Hinckley brand certainly has been built on that.”
Bennett said Maine residents benefit by having high-end manufacturers and businesses located in the state. People who purchase such items or services tend to react more quickly to improved economic conditions than most, he said.
“We are very fortunate in the state of Maine [because] it goes directly into our economy,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t have to go through Washington.”