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The Globe and Mail

In Pictures: Tide finally turning for boat manufacturers in Canada

The past few years haven’t been easy for small and medium-sized boat manufactures, but with sales recovering, confidence is higher than ever

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For Brock Elliott, the president of Campion Marine, confidence is the key word. “A boat is a luxury item,” he said. “If you’re not confident, you’re not going to buy a boat.”

Campion Marine

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The past few years haven’t been easy for small and medium-sized boat manufactures, Mr. Elliott said. When he talks about boat-making, he frequently mentions former competitors who went out of business during the downturn.

Campion Marine

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This winter, for the first time since 2008, Mr. Elliott said he has back-orders that will keep his factory busy until March.

Campion Marine

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Still, Campion Marine doesn’t have the staff it used to. The company currently employs 50 people, everything from designers and engineers to fibreglass assemblers and office staff. While Campion is hiring, the payroll remains much smaller than it used to be. When business peaked, during the winter of 2006 – 2007, the company employed 185 people. A couple years later, it was down to 42.

Campion Marine

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Henley Aluminum Boats, based in Manitowaning, Ont., also laid-off staff said the company’s CEO Dave Ham. At one point, he said, the Manitoulin Island boat-maker was down to two people.

Henley Boats

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Now, Mr. Ham said he has a staff of 10. “Two years ago it was a bit slow but last year it broke wide open,” he said.

Henley Boats

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To stay in business during the downturn, Mr. Ham said he focused on building boats for commercial and industrial clients. Last year, that all changed with a higher number of orders from recreational boaters.

Henley Boats

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Mr. Ham said he thinks 2014 might be a little slower than last year, at least for him, but it’s too early to tell.

Henley Boats

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Legend Boats, based in Whitefish, Ont., a part of Greater Sudbury, also puts a strong emphasis on the boat show. The event accounts for 10 per cent of the company’s unit volume sales, according to Paul Berney, Legend’s director of special projects.

Legend Boats

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Legend has 17 people at the show, along with 40 boats on display. “It’s a major commitment,” said Mr. Berney.

Legend Boats

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There are 376 boat manufacturers in Canada, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada, the recreational boating industry association. While the NMMA doesn’t have specific number about just how many of those are small businesses, Sara Zammit, the organization’s public relations manager, said the “vast majority are.”

Legend Boats

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