Slow economy forces Bucksport boat maker to downsize

By Kevin Miller, BDN Staff
Posted July 27, 2011, at 6:37 p.m.

BUCKSPORT, Maine — Six years after upgrading to a larger facility because of growing demand, a small boat-building company that has won critical acclaim is being forced to downsize as the economy continues to wreak havoc on the luxury boat industry.

Union River Boat Co. and Bucksport officials are hoping to find a new buyer or lessee for the large manufacturing facility that the company has occupied in the town’s industrial park since 2005.

Contrary to some reports, Belle Ryder said her family’s company plans to stay in business in Bucksport and hopefully within the park, albeit in a smaller building.

“Bucksport has been really good to us,” Ryder said. “We would like to stay here.”

Union River Boat Co. is one of the companies that has taken advantage of Bucksport’s offer of free land within Heritage Park — a 63-acre industrial park — in return for the company meeting a series of commitments to the town.

David Milan, Bucksport’s economic development director, said the town still holds the mortgage on Union River Boat’s property because the company has not met some of the key criteria for owning the property outright. The town has been working with the company to find a more suitable tenant for the existing property because of economic factors beyond Union River Boat’s control, he said.

“It’s hard everywhere,” Milan said. “It goes to show how tough the economy is when you’re trying to give land away for free and you still can’t do it.”

Milan said there are several potential clients looking at the property.

Founded in 1994 by Belle Ryder’s parents, Richard and Patricia Ryder, Union River Boat Co. has specialized in making custom components such as hulls for other companies.

But the family launched Ryder Boats in 2009 in order to market their own line of sailboats. Within a year, the company’s Presto 30 — a 30-foot-long boat capable of sailing in shallower waters but suitable for longer cruises — was receiving national and even international recognition within the boating industry.

The magazine SAIL named the Presto 30 the best cruising monohull under 50 feet in length for the year 2011. A few weeks later, Cruising World created a special Spirit Award for the sailboat, saying the Presto 30 was “in a class of its own.”

Belle Ryder, vice president and co-founder of Ryder Boats, said other companies with which Union River Boat contracted have been struggling for work so the company has had to rely more heavily on the Presto 30. And while the boat has been a critical success, sales have been slow because of the economy, she said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/27/business/economy-taking-toll-on-bucksport-boat-builder/ printed on September 18, 2014