GARDINER — When Southport Boats hits its stride this year in its new, larger manufacturing space in south Gardiner, a new boat is expected to leave the facility every week.

And that pace is anticipated to fulfill the company’s backlog of 50 orders and meet the growing demand for its line of center-console ocean fishing boats along the East Coast.

“It’s fun to build a high-end product, and we build a high-end product,” George Menezes, chief operating officer of Southport Boats, said Monday.

For Gardiner, whose history was built on manufacturing, the relocation of the company adds a layer of manufacturing back to the local economy.

“There are a lot of people in Gardiner who have the skills for that kind of work,” said Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street and economic development coordinator for the city of Gardiner.

“We’ve got this great manufacturing heritage in Gardiner and the space to do it in,” Wright said.

The boat closest to completion is a 33-foot model, which will retail for between $350,000 and $380,000.

The company makes boats that range from 27 feet to 33 feet long. This year, it plans to add a new, larger model with a cabin about 40 feet long.

The increase in both the number and kind of boats was made possible by moving the boat-building operation from Augusta at the end of 2017 to vacant warehouse space on River Road.

The expansion is the next step in a long-term plan that included the acquisition of Southport Boats, announced last August, by Tuxedo Yachts, a holding company created to acquire luxury-oriented boat businesses.

“This space is 55,000 square feet,” Menezes said. “We were in about 15,000 square feet in the other building.”

Currently, the business has 45 employees. The smaller space limited the company’s ability to expand its output, but with the larger space and the 10 additional employees who were brought on before the move and the 15 to 18 workers the company expects to hire this year, the production pace will pick up.

“In 2017, we built 28 boats,” Menezes said. “We could have built more, but we didn’t have the space. This year, we’ll build upwards of 50, and we have the sales to back it up. We have backlog that will take us through July. A lot of the boats are already paid for.”

Menezes said Southport has six to eight boats in different stages of production at any given time. A Southport boat takes six weeks to complete. The company uses an assembly line process, and between its two lines of boats, workers will complete one boat a week.

Southport boats are built by layering fiberglass fabric on a mold and infusing it with a resin in a vacuum to make the composite material hull and the internal support structure. The decks are made on a different mold using the same process. The boats are wired and fitted with speakers, electronics, a refrigerator and outboard motors and finished with upholstered benches and a composite canopy, which is fitted to a frame that’s fabricated by another company.

The second line the company produces is Carbon Craft luxury tenders; they were originally produced in Florida, but as part of the Southport acquisition, that operation relocated to Maine from the Tampa area. The tenders are made with a carbon fiber composite material. Menezes said they are designed to be light so they can easily be brought on board the megayachts they serve.

The decision to move that line to Maine stems from the cachet that a Maine-built boat has, said Menezes, who has worked in the industry for three decades.

One of the factors company officials considered in relocating to Gardiner was expandability.

“We can grow here,” Menezes said. “We can go two or three years, and we have the option to grow in this facility because there’s 33,000 square feet on the other side of the wall.”

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: JLowellKJ

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