SeaDek discusses growth, innovation

SeaDek Marine Products, which manufactures non-slip pads and other products out of its Florida plant, has experienced remarkable growth over the last few years.

Earlier this year, the company moved into a new 72,000-square-foot facility and has added dozens of employees. SeaDek was also recently named one of 50 “Florida Companies to Watch” by the Edward Lowe Foundation.

We recently talked to co-owner Jason Gardner about the company’s products and SeaDek’s growth trajectory.

What’s important for people to know about SeaDek?

We have so many plates spinning, it’s often hard for us to get out entire message out. Many people know us for one thing or another. They know we make pads for Nautique and Sea Ray, but they don’t realize we have this whole other line of custom products. Or vice versa – they know we do custom swim platform pads, but they don’t realize we have a whole line of do-it-yourself sheet materials. We’re not just one thing or another.

What are some those things people may not be aware of?

No. 1 is that it is made in the U.S.A. We’ve hired dozens of people in the last six months. We’re a good example of the good, old-fashioned American manufacturing company that everyone’s bemoaning the death of.

We started out as a small group of guys, surfers and boaters making products for the surf industry at a small factory down the street and only since the recession we’ve gone from that little company to what we are now.

In January we went from 17,000 square feet to 72,000 square feet. We thought moving into this new building, it was going to take years to fill it up. Here it is September, we’ve hired dozens of people, the factory is chock full and that empty space we thought we were going to have is filled with raw materials.

Why have you been able to grow so rapidly?

Timing’s a big part of it. We came on to the market in the early 2000s and there were problems with the current nonskids. They were delaminating and tracking black through the boats, especially in the wake boat market. We solved a problem. We had a product that didn’t do it and looked nicer.

Boat builders are looking for something to separate from the crowd and we were able to provide that.

Why keep operations here in the United States rather than move manufacturing overseas?

There are a lot of things we can do that help defend us against overseas competitors. For one thing, I think the OEMs really like that shorter supply chain. They don’t have to wait weeks for a container to come from overseas with 10,000 units that may or may not meet the quality standards of the OEMs. We can have prototypes started this week and they can be putting them on a boat next week and that’s a big asset to the boat builders.

Then there’s the versatility to order just what they need. They don’t have to order 10,000 units. We can make dozens of units just as they need them. That was really important coming out of the recession.

Are there any trends in colors, styles that you’ve noticed?

We have the faux teak pattern where we cut teak lines into the foam. So it looks, especially from a distance, like teak, but you step down on it and there’s that nice surprise that it’s comfortable and not burning hot.

Now we’re seeing people taking that standard teak and trying different color combinations, things that aren’t traditional teak looks, but are being applied to high-end boats. We’re also seeing people push our CNC capabilities to the limit, coming out with new designs that are nontraditional, that really break the molds.

People are really learning how far we can go and taking advantage of it.

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