Chris-Craft, a revered boat manufacturer known for its high-end boats, suffered in the Great Recession.
Like so many companies, it shed jobs and dramatically cut back its workforce as sales plummeted.
Today, prospects are looking up and the company is seeking Manatee County approval to add nearly 48,000 square feet of manufacturing space to its facility at 8161 15th St. E., near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. In addition, the company is seeking to add a 9,361-square-foot metal roof canopy.
From a low of about 130 workers in the depths of the Great Recession, Manatee-based Chris-Craft has rebuilt its workforce to about 300 and has maxed out its available manufacturing space, company president Stephen Heese said.
“We have actually exceeded our high-water sales peak in 2008,” Heese said.
The company qualifies for $55,000 in economic incentives and $42,720 in transportation impact fee incentives, according to documents filed with Manatee County Government, which is treating the development request as a rapid response project.
We love old heritage brands. If you can develop products that deliver the promise of the brand, the brand equity comes roaring back.
Stephen Heese, president of Chris-Craft
The incentives are dependent on the creation of 55 new jobs during a five-year period. The new jobs would have an average annual wage of $42,277, equal to 115 percent of the county average.
The launch of the expansion is dependent on county approval, but Heese would like to have the first of two proposed buildings completed in 2017.
“We have done some incremental space increases to get as much as we can out of our available space. Now it is time for additional square footage under a roof,” Heese said.
Chris-Craft is proposing $5 million in expanded facilities, plus another $5 million for tooling.
“This year we will beat our previous sales peak. It’s taken eight years, but we got there,” Heese said.
Chris-Craft, which was founded in 1874 and got started by building sailboats, was known for its wooden boats until 1960, when it transitioned to fiberglass models. During World War II, it manufactured landing craft for the military.
Today it manufactures 18 boat and yacht models ranging from 20 to 42 feet. Chris-Craft plans to introduce three new models in 2017.
Chris-Craft is not the first legacy company that Heese and partner Stephen Julius have turned around through their company, Stellican Ltd.
Heese served as president of Indian Motorcycle Company from 2004-11.
“We are always on the lookout for more. We love old heritage brands. If you can develop products that deliver the promise of the brand, the brand equity comes roaring back,” Heese said.
Manate County staff comments on the requested site plan are due Wednesday.