SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — For the second time this year, a local yacht maker has launched a new model of boats from its waterfront facility.
The launch of Hinckley’s new T34 — a picnic-style boat intended for day trips — helps illustrate the recovery the company has made since early 2009, when the number of boats on order dropped and the company laid off 90 people from its Trenton production facility, according to a company official. Since the spring of 2009, the firm has rebuilt its work force in Maine and now employs more than 250 in the state, with more than 180 of them in Trenton.
Philip Bennett, vice president of sales for the firm, said Monday that Hinckley knew the layoffs would be temporary and that, as the economy was changing, the firm would need to adapt with it. The design of the 34-foot, water-jet driven vessel launched Monday from the Hinckley service yard in the local village of Manset was conceived at the same time the sagging economy was prompting customers to cancel or delay their orders of late 2008, he said.
“This boat was a product of those deep, dark times,” Bennett said.
The starting price of the T34, just over half a million dollars, and its 34-foot length makes economic sense for the company’s traditional customer base, he said. It also serves a modern market where people have more scheduling demands and perhaps less time to get out on the water.
“You have to adapt to changing environments,” Bennett said.
Jim McManus, CEO of Hinckley, said in a prepared statement that the company did a fair amount of market research when it started to design the T34. The boaters polled by Hinckley, he said, “overwhelmingly expressed an interest in a simpler boat, one without too many of the things that often go unused or require a lot of maintenance.”
In January 2011, as the firm was investing in new products and rebuilding its operations, the company was sold to Scout Partners LLC, a capital investment firm. McManus, who has been Hinckley’s CEO since before that acquisition, predicted at the time that the firm would continue to rebound.
Hinckley now employs approximately 450 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, company officials have said.
The boat launched Monday, which can achieve speeds of 32 knots, or about 37 mph, and has just 22 inches of draft, was taken for its inaugural drive up Somes Sound. It is the first of six boats Hinckley is building to order, according to Bennett. He said the company does not have employees who will work solely on the T34, but that a “sizeable percentage” of the firm’s 185 employees in Trenton will help fill those orders.
He said the six boats on order will help keep employees busy well into 2013 and that the company has enough work scheduled on various models to keep employees busy for the next two years.
Bennett predicted that, as more people learn about the T34, Hinckley likely will find itself with more orders to fill.
“We’re going to have a very nice problem,” he said.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.