SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — With a careful smashing of a champagne bottle and a subsequent thrust of the throttle to 40 mph, a local yacht maker launched the first of a new series of boat that it says will provide employment to dozens of people for more than a year.
With Gov. Paul LePage in attendance, several dozen Hinckley Co. employees and others watched Wednesday afternoon as the first new Talaria 48 took a spin around the waters off Mount Desert Island. Hinckley Co. CEO Jim McManus said Wednesday that the firm, which employs 230 people in Maine, has orders to build 11 of the boats and hopes eventually to build five or six a year.
The boat is 48 feet long and is designed to comfortably accommodate a family or two couples, McManus said. The vessel has two state rooms and two heads, or bathrooms.
“There’s so many people involved in a project like this,” McManus said at the company’s facility in the local village of Manset. “Today is the culmination of all this work.”
Mike Arieta, Hinckley’s vice president of production, said the Talaria 48 retails for $2.2 million. He said that just with the orders Hinckley has for the Talaria 48, the firm will have enough work for 90 people. He said Hinckley expects there to be steady demand for the new model.
“We’re confident we’re going to have a good backlog for that boat,” Arieta said. “We expect to have work for those 90 [employees] for the next 18 months.”
LePage attended Wednesday’s launching and spoke briefly about the importance of boat building to the state’s economy.
“I thought coming up here this was going to be a gift,” LePage joked as he briefly addressed the crowd before getting a tour and a ride on the boat. “This is a great day not only for Hinckley, but also for the state of Maine. I hope you build many, many, many more.”
According to information posted on the website of boat-building trade group Maine Built Boats, the industry in Maine helps provide work for 5,000 people and has annual sales that exceed $650 million. Attempts on Wednesday to contact officials with the trade group were unsuccessful.
But he said that since the fourth quarter of 2009, when the firm set a sales record and rehired 30 to 40 workers, Hinckley has been steadily increasing its workload. In the past two years it has hired more than 200 people companywide, 140 alone on the production division, and in the past year it has increased its production by 50 percent, he added.
Hinckley now employs 444 people at its nine locations on the East Coast, which include production sites in Trenton and Southwest Harbor and seven service sites out of state, according to McManus. In Maine, Hinckley employs 232 people, most of whom are involved in production operations in Hancock County. He said more than half of the company’s business is in its service division, and most of its service customers are non-Hinckley owners.
McManus said in addition to the model launched Wednesday, Hinckley plans to launch its new Talaria 34 model this summer and has received an order for a Sou’wester 42 sailing yacht, which is expected to provide work for an additional 20 to 30 Hinckley employees over the next 12 months.
“It’s really been exciting,” the CEO said. “We’ve really seen an extraordinary rebound since the first quarter of 2009.”
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.