AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine’s boat building industry is poised for significant growth if several factors are pursued and put into practice, according to a 2007 report by Planning Decisions, Inc., Maine Built Boats reported in a recent statement.
The report, “Maine’s Boat Building Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities,” highlights the state’s strengths and offers recommendations to grow a sustainable industry with long-term success. Members of Maine’s boat building community plan to use the report to support and expand the industry under the Workforce Innovation Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant, which is overseen by the North Star Alliance Initiative (NSAI).
“The viable information put forth in the report will serve as a measure of growth as we strive to expand Maine’s boat building industry under the North Star Alliance Initiative,” said Jack Cashman, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development. “Boat building has made significant progress with the inclusion of technology, and we must continue to support Maine’s expanding traditional industry.”
According to the report, Maine’s boat building industry generates $355 million in annual sales and includes 200 businesses that employ 2,500 workers with a total payroll of $95 million. Boat building also directly affects Maine’s tourism, fishing, composites, fabricated metals, lumber, financial services, transportation and research industries, producing a total state economic impact of $550 million in sales, $160 million in payroll, 4,500 jobs and $25 million in state and local taxes.
“The significant impact Maine’s boat building industry has on the state is obvious, but now we need to explore areas for growth to keep boat building at the forefront of the economy,” said Paul Rich, president of Maine Built Boats. “This report will help us pinpoint areas that are ready for growth and where the industry needs additional support in order to take it to the next level.”
A number of factors have contributed to growth opportunities for the state’s boat building industry, including the weak U.S. dollar, the rise in power boat sales outside the northeast, the rapid growth of the consumer boating market and the globalization of U.S. industries, according to the report.
Helping Maine’s boat building industry take advantage of these opportunities will require the continued collaboration of other industry clusters and the NSAI WIRED program to address several issues, including a work force shortage, a tough business climate and the need to help small- and mid-size companies get on solid ground, the report suggested.
Labor shortage a major challenge
The report states labor issues are the result of a shortage of skilled workers and a diminishing work force.
“Several industry specific apprenticeship training programs and workforce development curricula are currently offered in conjunction with NSAI to address these issues,” said Christina Sklarz-Libby, NSAI’s program manager.
The report also indicates that most of Maine’s boat building companies (89 percent) employ less than 50 workers. Catapulting smaller businesses to the next level would allow them to expand production, hire additional workers and strengthen Maine’s boat building industry, ultimately allowing these companies to become self-sustaining.
Larger companies should also be encouraged to continue growth and maintain a large employee base.
In order to expand Maine’s boat building industry, the report suggests a number of solutions, including:
“We need to start working with local high schools and Maine’s marine-focused post-secondary education programs, including Maine Maritime Academy, The Landing School and our community college system, to market boat building as a viable career,” said Rich. “The jobs, pay and benefits are there, but we need to get the word out to a broader audience that there are viable careers in the boat building industry.”
Maine Built Boats commissioned the report by South Portland-based Planning Decisions, Inc. through a Cluster Enhancement Award from the Maine Technology Institute in order to quantify the boat building industry’s technology assets and measure the current state of Maine’s boat building industry, including its strengths and where the industry needs to improve in order to stay competitive and grow Maine’s existing businesses. To view the full report, visit www.mainebuiltboats.com.
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