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Scout Boats eyes building larger models

Scout Boats is looking to increase capacity to build bigger boats, but the brand is still committed to producing the 17-footers the company built its reputation on.

That’s according to founder Steve Potts, who detailed the company’s $2.5 million expansion, which seeks to basically double Scout’s workforce to 500 by 2019.

“We will not vacate the small boats, just because we have always had the philosophy that we want to keep people in our brand,” Potts told Soundings. “If there’s a young couple out of school, just starting their careers, and their budget means going to get a 17-footer, we want to be there for them.”

That said, there is a trend Potts refers to as “big boat-itis” that is helping to prompt the company’s growth into a niche fiberglass outboard segment that has seen little competition.

The company has had 25 percent growth on average since 2009, when many companies were flailing. The extra 25,000 square feet of space,which will be tacked on to the existing 180,000-square-foot plant outside Charleston, S.C., will accommodate the builder’s progression into larger vessels, with the 380 and 420 LXF on the horizon.

“As you start getting in the arena of boats that sell for six figures and above, there are a lot less builders and a lot less competition, so I think there’s market share for us to gain,” Potts said.

There’s also a shift in what people who can afford such boats want — “big center consoles as opposed to cruisers,” which has led to some market segment growth, “but I don’t think it’s huge,” he said. But the fact there are few players in the segment gives Scout an opportunity.

“It takes a lot of infrastructure for you to be a player in that style of boat,” Potts said. “Your engineering support, and quality control and assurance programs — it’s not something you can take a simple-minded approach to. It’s a complete commitment by a builder. It’s not flipping a switch, building bigger molds and bigger fiberglass pieces. I think that’s why it’s probably going to limit the number of people getting in it because it’s a pretty big financial commitment.”

Boats 17 to 25 feet are built in what Potts calls Plant A, and boats over 27 feet are constructed in Plant B. Plant C, the new section, will be dedicated solely to the 38 and the 42, he says.

“It’s all under one roof, but they have separate stock rooms, managers” and staff, he said. “That’s because the methodology of building small boats and large boats is different.”

For example, Plant C will have a state-of-the-art heated spray booth because the company will offer custom colors in those sizes. “We have custom gelcoat colors, but …for customers that are using those center consoles for yacht tenders, we can paint the boats whatever color they want.”

About a third of the $2.5 million has gone into investments for plants A and B for bridge cranes and other interior upgrades.