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Legendary Bertram Yachts could be sunk

A Commerce, Okla.-based company asked for tax abatement and other financial incentives to move onto the Bertram Yacht property on Merritt Island, Fla., and build 60- to 90-foot Ocean Alexander yachts using vacuum-infusion technology.

The company, identified only as “Project Transom” in documents submitted to the Brevard County Commission for its meeting last Tuesday, said demand for Ocean Alexanders has grown beyond the builder’s ability to satisfy it now that MarineMax, the nation’s largest dealer chain, carries the brand in the eastern United States.

“The demand is far greater than current production, making … an additional manufacturing factory a necessity,” the documents say.
Industry observers have noted for some time that the Bertram plant appears inactive.

Phone calls to Alton Herndon, Bertram’s president; Brett Keating, its marketing director; and James Henderson, Ferretti Group America’s president and CEO, and an email to Jessica Cortada, the group media contact, went unanswered.

A receptionist at Ferretti Group America’s Miami office, asked about Bertram’s status for this story, referred a reporter to Federico Fernando, the Bertram owners’ contact for warranty and after-sales. He said Bertram has not been building boats at Merritt Island for several months, although production could start again at some point.

“There are a lot of changes going on in the group,” Fernando said. He said that at present “the idea is to restart” Bertram, but it’s uncertain where or when.

He said Bertram will not be represented at the Oct. 30-Nov. 3 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, but Ferretti will. In 2012, the Chinese company Shandong Heavy Industry bought a 75 percent interest in the Ferretti Group, which builds Ferretti, Pershing, Itama, Riva, Mochi Craft and CRN yachts, and owns Bertram.

The document submitted to the Brevard commissioners says Project Transom would employ about 50 workers in the first year, 110 in the second year, 180 in the third year and 380 in the fourth year. It expects to invest $16 million to $18 million in the plant over four years and will need 150,000 square feet initially and an additional 80,000 square feet eventually.

The company is asking for an abatement of about half of the $230,400 annual property tax bill during the next 10 years. The Economic Development Commission of the Space Coast, which vetted the proposal, projects that Project Transom will have a $37.6 million annual economic impact once the plant gears up to 380 workers.

A public hearing on the proposed tax abatement is scheduled for Oct. 7 in the commission chambers.

The Merritt Island property, on Sykes Creek just off the Intracoastal Waterway, could accommodate Bertram and this second builder, said Greg Weiner, the EDC’s senior director of business development. “But we don’t know whether that’s in the plans. It’s a world-class facility, one of the best facilities on the East Coast,” Weiner said.

Jay J. Hood, of Commerce, Okla., is listed in the commission documents as Project Transom’s agent and president. He did not return phone calls. He is listed in patent documents as a developer of vacuum-infusion fiberglass resin technology.