Join Date: Oct 2000
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 0
Bargain hunter buys boat business
Pacific Seacraft moves to Beaufort
Tim Simmons, Staff Writer
When Steve Brodie flew to a bankruptcy auction last month in California, he hoped to buy enough equipment to start a small business that would build sailboats in Beaufort County.He returned instead with an entire sailboat company, Pacific Seacraft.
"We loaded it onto 21 tractor-trailers and all but two have arrived at this point," Brodie said. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Brodie spent $85,000 at the auction to buy the company name, boat molds, tools and five sailboat hulls.
The sailboats, which measure 31 feet to 44 feet, cost $250,000 to $1 million each. The company also makes a 38-foot trawler.
"He got a darn good deal," said Mike Bradley, who leads the state's effort to recruit boat makers. "It's a darn good situation."
Brodie said he was surprised to win the rights to the company and suspects that it had something to do with the terms of the deal: The winning bidder had eight days to clear everything from the premises.
"I guess that thinned the crowd a little bit," he said.
It cost more to move Pacific Seacraft than it did to buy it, but Brodie used a Beaufort County company -- Deep Water Transport of Washington -- and got started right away. He didn't make the eight-day deadline, but a few negotiations took care of that issue.
At its peak, Brodie said, the sailboat company had about 140 employees producing 120 boats a year. He would like to reach that point again but will start much smaller, with about 12 people.
"I think we'll grow back up pretty rapidly," he said.
Some of the early jobs could be filled by people transferring from the Fullerton, Calif., plant.
Brodie is talking with local economic development officials about building a permanent location in Beaufort County. For now, the company will operate out of a former textile mill in Washington, N.C.
Pacific Seacraft will be North Carolina's 108th boat-building company. If it reaches 140 employees, it would be a mid-size player in the market, said Bradley, who is director of the state's division for Boating Industry Services, part of the Small Business and Technology Development Center in Beaufort.
Despite its name, Pacific Seacraft sells most of its boats to owners along the East Coast. That makes a location near the Pamlico Sound a logical home.
But Brodie, 36, had other reasons for moving the company more than 2,500 miles: He, his wife and three children live in Washington.
"But I am very much aware that this is a friendly place to build boats, for a number of reasons," he said.
North Carolina has worked hard to increase the boat-building industry, tapping deeply into its coastal history and desire to replace manufacturing jobs lost in the past decade. Officials promised Brunswick Corp., for example, as much as $4.6 million over 10 years in exchange for opening a plant near Wilmington that will employ 858 people.
Brodie said he loves to sail and at one point worked with the International Institute for Maritime Research on historic vessel restorations. He is a marine archaeologist who spends most of his time on the water, working aboard research vessels that search and document shipwrecks.
Some of that work includes recovery efforts on Queen Anne's Revenge -- better known as the pirate Blackbeard's ship -- and the Confederate ship CSS Alabama off the coast of France.
He expects to spend a lot more time around sailboats in the future -- but probably less time on the water.
"I think I pretty much just filled up what used to be my free time," he said.