BUILDER: Wellcraft Marine, Sarasota, Fla. Phone: (941) 753-7811.
LINE: 17 models in five lines that include offshore cruisers, center consoles and bay boats from 18 to 36 feet, and ranging from around $30,000 to $450,000
OWNER/GENERAL MANAGER: Genmar Holdings/Mike O’Connell
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 450
BEST KNOWN FOR: “boats for performance, family, fishing and fun”
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT BUILDING BOATS IN FLORIDA: “By being in Florida we have access to a stable work force as well as the most important of our markets. This proximity is imperative for the development of new products.”
THE FLIP SIDE: “We have the same challenges as everyone else of similar size, e.g. taxes and insurance costs; therefore we as an industry have to work closely with government and state officials.”
Founded in 1955, Wellcraft is one of the original Sarasota boatbuilders that have thrived and survived by designing, building and marketing pleasure boats in the Florida tradition, from Scarabs to center consoles to walkarounds. “For more than 50 years Wellcraft has been a fixture of the Florida boatbuilding industry,” says Mike O’Connell. “Our location has influenced boat design, no question. We always have built boats that fit the boating preferences in the Southeast. But over time, as we grew as a company, we adapted these designs for other markets, such as the Northeast or the West Coast, where we market fully enclosed cabin cruisers, cuddy cabin and walkaround models.”
Today, Wellcraft is owned by Genmar Holdings, parent company of 12 U.S. powerboat brands, including Hydra-Sports, which shares facilities, resources and employees with Wellcraft. While Wellcraft has been under the Genmar umbrella since the late 1980s, Hydra-Sports was acquired in 2001 after it had moved from its origins in Nashville, Tenn., to Columbia, S.C. Genmar then consolidated the manufacturing of Hydra-Sports boats with Wellcraft at the plant in Sarasota.
Wellcraft and Hydra-Sports offer the same number of models (17) in size and price ranges that overlap and complement each other. On the upper end, Wellcraft’s Coastal line of offshore family fishing boats reaches 40 feet in length overall, with a price tag of around $500,000. The Wellcraft Web site offers product information and access to online boat test results for its models. The site also offers window shoppers an opportunity to customize their boat of choice, although it refers to dealers for pricing information. Sales outside the United States, O’Connell says, are handled by Genmar’s international dealer network, which covers 20 countries.
Addressing the question of future growth and other aspects of production, O’Connell offers a pragmatic view. “Like other marine manufacturing businesses, in Europe or Japan, we implement the Six Sigma Principle to deliver high performance, reliability and value to the end customer,” he says. In 2001 Wellcraft became the first Genmar brand to earn an ISO 9001:2000 registration, which emphasizes customer satisfaction and a systematic business approach. Beyond that, O’Connell adds, “It enables us to grow without increasing the work force, which would be difficult to do in a place with unemployment hovering around 3 percent.”