Rybovich to move yacht-building facility

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Rybovich, a sportfishing manufacturer that has built boats in West Palm Beach, Fla., for 86 years, now plans to build them on cheaper waterfront property in Martin County, Fla., the Palm Beach Post reported in a story this morning.

Over the next two years, Rybovich plans to build an 8-acre workshop south of Stuart, Fla., where it will then make its multimillion-dollar handcrafted yachts.

The move is part of new owner Wayne Huizenga Jr.'s plan to expand the boat-building business while making room for his condominium project going up on Rybovich's location on North Flagler Drive, the newspaper reported.

"We'd like to see them stay in Palm Beach County, but as long as they're going to continue building boats, Stuart's not that far," said Lou Daniello Jr., president of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.

Huizenga, 43, son of the South Florida billionaire who owns the Miami Dolphins, bought the 12-acre Rybovich facility, which includes a marina and boat repair shop, in January 2004. He plans a $100 million renovation that will include the condos, retail shops and a restaurant, according to the story.

The marina and boat service yard will stay at the West Palm Beach site, but the boat-building division and its crew will move north. It's simply too expensive to keep the manufacturing operations on such valuable land along the Intracoastal Waterway, Huizenga said Thursday, according to the newspaper.

"We wanted a large, full-service operation on the water dedicated to boat-building.... We could not carry the debt service in the value of this land," he said.

In September, Huizenga paid $2 million for 8 acres on the St. Lucie Canal just south of Stuart for the new Rybovich facility, Martin County records show. He said he's seeking permits and drawing up plans in hopes of making the move within two years.

The decision also hinged on the return of Michael Rybovich to his family's namesake company, the newspaper reported.

His Ryco Marine Custom Boat Works in Riviera Beach merged in October with Huizenga's Rybovich, marking the first time in two decades that a member of the Rybovich family has worked at the boat builder.

"I consider this to be hallowed ground," Rybovich, 50, said of the North Flagler boatyard where his grandfather started the boat-building company in 1919. "With the long-term plans, we just don't think it's going to work.... If we'd stay here, we'd be working in a tent."

When Huizenga bought Rybovich, he quickly approached Michael Rybovich about returning, following his father's advice.

"I am more of a steward of the Rybovich empire than the owner," Huizenga said. "Wayne Sr. was right when he told me, 'Go out and find the best in the industry and listen to them, Junior.'... I had to go find Michael.

Michael Rybovich is now heading up the Rybovich boat-building operations. He plans to bring Ryco and Rybovich's workers gradually into the new operation, assembling a crew of 50 skilled craftsmen.

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