Plans to base operations in Wayne County announced last week
Clinton County’s economy and job numbers took a big hit last week when it was announced that one of the largest employers in the county would be shutting down operations here and moving to neighboring Wayne County.
Thoroughbred Houseboats, which employees some 40 employees at the local plant, announced in a press release issued on Friday, that they would be closing the Clinton County factory and moving all of its houseboat manufacturing operations to Wayne County.
Rumors about the possible shutdown and move had been circulating through the local business community for several months.
That press release read, in part: “Thoroughbred Houseboats has recently acquired the Fantasy Yacht building on East Hwy 90. Thoroughbred will be moving all their sales and production operation into the building during January and hope to be fully operational by February 1, 2012.”
Thoroughbred Houseboats currently works out of a facility in west Albany on Fairgrounds Road, adjacent to the Clinton County Fairgrounds.
Across the region, the custom houseboat manufacturing firms have suffered considerably during the current economic downturn, with many in this region going out of business completely in the past several years.
However, for Thoroughbred Houseboats, the need for the move announced last week was apparently for reasons that were just the opposite from what many other manufacturers have gone through.
Shawn Heinen, President of Thoroughbred Houseboats, told the Clinton County News Monday morning in a brief interview, the significant number of orders his company has taken in the past few weeks, coupled with the size of most of the boats being ordered, played the largest part in the decision to relocate.
Heinen noted that the move to the facility formerly owned by Fantasy Houseboats meant that his company would be working in a much larger building.
He said that the company is now working on its eighth straight boat that is in excess of 100 feet in length.
“If you came over here and walked through right now, you would see that we are just jammed-packed,”Heinen said. “We really needed a bigger facility and this was just the right time.”
Heinen added that the company explored several additional options before making the final decision to purchase the facility in Wayne County, including building additional square footage at its current location.
He said that the current buildings are somewhat hemmed in at the back with a large sinkhole, and that problem factored in considerably in their decision to make a total move of its manufacturing operations.
By relocating to the Wayne County facility, with a much larger building, Heinen said they would eliminate the current practice of having to do much of the work on larger boats outside of the buildings at its current location.
Currently, Thoroughbred employs about 40 workers, and according to the press release announcing the move, plans are to add between 15 and 20 new employees during the next few months.
Heinen said that considering the number of orders for new boats that the company currently has, he actually expects to exceed those employee estimates.
“I think that by summer, we’ll be at about 70 (employees)” Heinen said Monday.
Heinen also said that while the sale of the current facility would certainly be something that his company would entertain if a buyer expressed an interest, additional options for use of the building had also been considered and are being kept on the table as “possibles” including using the current building for hull manufacturing work or building smaller sized houseboats that are ordered.
He also said that in addition to the building size becoming a problem, the physical location of the building itself presented problems in getting large sized boats out of the facility lot and out of Albany.
“Moving these big boats, you wouldn’t believe the logistics involved sometimes,”Heinsen explained.
Thoroughbred Houseboats had it’s initial startup at the current location in the fall of 1996, producing it’s first custom houseboat in 1997.