Chris-Craft moves new yacht division to North Carolina

SARASOTA, Fla. — Chris-Craft announced yesterday that it will be expanding its operations by opening a second production facility in Kings Mountain, N.C.

The new 215,000-square-foot facility sits on 85 acres, and will be the manufacturing facility for the company’s yachts from 33 to 40 feet. Currently, these models are built in Sarasota, where the company is headquartered.

The change of venue is expected to create 640 jobs in Cleveland County over the next five years. The company plans to maintain its current workforce in Florida by introducing several new boats that are less than 30 feet in length to the Sarasota plant.

“Western North Carolina provides a big opportunity for Chris-Craft,” says Steve Heese, President. “There are a significant number of potential employees available from the furniture and textile industries that are skilled craftsmen. Their skills will be ideal for building our premium quality yachts. This is an exciting time for our company. Our sales growth has exceeded the capacity limits of our Sarasota plant, and the new facility will see the company through the next stage of its development.”

Chris-Craft will select a group of employees from the Sarasota facility to begin production in North Carolina. The company will begin outfitting the building, which was formerly owned by Freightliner Corporation, for boat-building in the near future. The company anticipates a production start date sometime during the first quarter of 2007.

The North Carolina Marine Trades Services program director Mike Bradley says his department of the NC Small Business & Technology Development Center successfully aligned with the N.C. Department of Commerce to create an effective boating industry recruiting partnership. This collaborative effort, the department says, resulted in luring “internationally respected” Chris-Craft.

The majority of the 640 new jobs will reportedly be skilled production positions, and while individual wages will vary greatly, the average wage for all of these positions is expected to be $32,000 a year plus benefits, which is greater than the Cleveland County average yearly pay of $28,700 – without benefits.

“This state has a workforce with the skills we need to build boats. Former furniture makers and woodworkers are ideal employees for us,” said Heese. “The central location near several interstates will facilitate product distribution, and the quality of life cannot be beat. The biggest factor in our decision was the warm reception we received by local and state officials, and their willingness to work with us to make this project happen.”

In addition, Chris-Craft’s parent company, Stellican Limited, will also move its Indian Motorcycle Company to Cleveland County from Sarasota and plans to invest more than $23 million to open a motorcycle production facility in the old International Paper plant near Kings Mountain. The 167 jobs this move will generate are expected to be skilled production and engineer positions, and while individual wages will vary greatly, the average wage for all of these positions is expected to pay an average annual salary of $47,000 plus benefits.

Together the two companies are expected to invest about $42 million in Cleveland County and create 807 jobs over the next five years.

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