Scout adding plant, new R&D facility

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes
The Scout 530 LXF can be powered with up to five outboards.

The Scout 530 LXF can be powered with up to five outboards.

Scout Boats plans to add a 100,000-square-foot plant to its three-factory campus in South Carolina to build the 53-foot center console for which the company unveiled plans at February’s Miami International Boat Show.

“We started the process to go through regulatory hurdles about six months ago,” Scout founder and CEO Steve Potts told Soundings Trade Only on the docks at Miami. “Plant D will build the new 53 and something in between the 42 and the 53.”

He indicated the “something” could be a 46-footer, although Scout has not finalized plans for the 2018 model. The company builds boats from 17 to 25 feet in Plant A on its Mount Pleasant, S.C., campus. Plant B is for building boats from 27 to 35 feet; Plant C, completed two years ago, is used to build the 38-footer and the 42-footer.

The company also will add a 20,000-square-foot building to house its product development and engineering operations, Potts said. Scout has been using a 10,000-square-foot space in one of its plants for research and development. “We do all our design in-house,” said Potts.

Finding workers will be challenging, Potts said, echoing the current sentiment of many U.S. boatbuilders. “Finding good talent is what governs our growth. We’re building what we can build, based on that. It’s maxed out.”

The company works with vocational schools in nearby Charleston, holds job fairs and basically gets “as creative as possible,” said Potts. “Getting trained boatbuilders is non-existent. We’re very structured with safety, attendance, and some builders are a little more lenient.” The company pays well, he said, and fosters a sense of community, pride and ownership among employees. “My wife and I started Scout 26 years ago in our garage,” Potts said. “We go toe to toe with billion-dollar corporations. We are a unique company.”

Scout, which rolled out its 380 LXF at the show, has been having lots of success with its larger models, but its smaller models also continue to do well, Potts said. “We’d love for our dealers to have inventory, but they don’t,” he said.

Len and Andy Renné, a father-son team that owns and operates Seven Seas Yacht Sales, a Fort Lauderdale dealership that sells Scout only, echo Potts’ frustration on inventory. “Andy just sold a 53 today,” said Seven Seas president Len Renné, adding that the backlog for the Scout 420 LXF is about a year. The 380 LXF is out until July or August, he said.

The recent boat shows have been a source of success for Scout, Potts said. “New York this year was up 80 percent over last year, and last year was good.”

A couple who got a sea trial at Miami on hull No. 2 of the 380 LXF (hull No. 1 was at the in-water display), powered with quad Mercury Verado 300s, were impressed with the way the boat handled. The couple’s current center console, which was smaller than the 38, had the Mercury system on it, but it was their first time experiencing the SeaKeeper gyrostabilizer.

Scout needs more space for the 530 LXF and a future model that will bridge the gap between the 42 and 53.

Scout needs more space for the 530 LXF and a future model that will bridge the gap between the 42 and 53.

Potts said sales at Miami were strong and larger boats did well. “This show is not typically a small-boat show. People usually travel to spend a lot of dollars.”

The company has a growing and enthusiastic fan base, and many of those fans showed up in Miami. Key Biscayne resident Barry Goldmeier approached Potts to talk about how much he loves his 30-foot LXF. “It’s a great boat. I bought the boat over others from MarineMax because they give great service,” Goldmeier told Potts. “But it is also the best boat.”

Goldmeier said that about a third of the center consoles on Key Biscayne are Intrepid powerboats. About 20 percent are Contenders. But he thinks his presence there has prompted a few others to purchase Scouts. “I drive around, and everybody comments on how good it looks” because it has that “South Carolina flair. I know at least two people who’ve since bought one, too.”

In addition to looking good, it’s a solid boat, he said. That prompted Potts to tell the story of a rendezvous the company had in Bimini — to which a woman took her 14-year-old son in her 22-footer. “That gives you an idea of how much she trusts her boat, just a 22-foot boat all the way to Bimini,” Potts said.

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue.

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