Wisconsin builders react to economic conditions

PULASKI and STURGEON BAY, Wis. – Cautious behavior on the part of consumers and banks is causing a slow down for boat builders in Wisconsin and across the country.

Genmar Yacht Group, based in Pulaski, Wis., is extending its traditional two-week shutdown for the holidays to four weeks, for example, and Palmer Johnson Yachts, Sturgeon Bay, Wis., is reducing its work force, according to a recent Associated Press article in the Green Bay Gazette.

Palmer Johnson explained the decision, reporting that two of the seven yacht orders it had taken for 2009 had been delayed until 2010.

Genmar attributed its decision in part to the banks that serve the marine industry.

“We had some contracts that were booked and ready to go,” Robert VanGrunsven, Genmar’s president, told the Associated Press. “They’re still there, but the banks have come through on their portion of the financing and said, ‘We’re going to slow this down a little bit and the funding we thought we were going to get in December is delayed 30 days.’ It’s just the prudent thing to do right now.”

VanGrunsven said his company currently employs just over 400 people, down from about 800 in 2007.

The Associated Press also noted that Centurion Boats recently opted out of the last year of its contract as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International, citing the downturn of the national economy for the decision.

Fineline Industries, Centurion Boats’ parent company, said production has been cut in half, resulting in layoffs at its North Carolina facility.

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