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‘No place to go but up’ for Caddo Mfg. - Trade Only Today

‘No place to go but up’ for Caddo Mfg.

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The new boatbuilder is turning out four model lines from the former Vivian Industries plant

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When Vivian Industries filed for bankruptcy in March 2008, it could have meant the end of the Vivian, La.-based builder of VIP, Deckliner and BayStealth boats - another victim of the dismal economy.

But Billy Breed, a former national sales manager for Vivian, wouldn't let that happen.

"I know what the product is," he explains. "I know the product sells. I just felt like it was something I wanted to see as an ongoing venture."

So last September, Breed, along with Joel Euton, bought some of the assets of the former company and used them to form Caddo Manufacturing. The new company began building boats Dec. 1, with plans to produce between 350 and 500 in the first year of operation.

"It's a good opportunity for us to get in the business - there's no place to go but up," says Breed. "We're not straddled with big indebtedness, as most other manufacturers are."

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Like Breed, Euton is no stranger to the boating industry. He formerly owned a small boat company in Hamilton, Texas, called Advanced Outdoors, whose main line was the Ultra Cat - a shallow-draft center console built mainly for the Texas Gulf Coast market.

About two years ago, a fire damaged his plant and Euton wasn't able to rebuild the facility to its previous condition, he says. While looking for a place to build his boats, he became interested in VIP and ended up going into business with Breed.

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Ultra Cat, along with VIP, Deckliner and BayStealth, will be built under the Caddo name. The boat, Euton says, complements the other lines.

"It will really match well with what we're doing here," he says.

Breed and Euton are managing partners in the company and, along with a group of local investors, Breed says, they spent about $250,000 for assets of the former company, including its 300,000-square-foot facility. They didn't buy everything, he says - just what was needed for production.

Breed says Vivian Industries had been in business about 40 years, and was a vital part of the small town of about 4,000. It was once the largest employer in Vivian, doing $25 million a year in business and employing more than 400 people.

Caddo has the plant on a lease-purchase agreement with the city, which also put money into the facility to help bring it up to code.

As a former salesman of the boat lines, Breed says he knew they had a following and at one time were being sold by 85 to 90 dealers throughout the country. In the past, Euton says, Vivian Industries built 25 boats a day - about 125 a week.

"Many of the dealers that VIP had in the past want the product because it's very marketable and ... most of the designs are pretty modern," says Euton.

Since reopening as Caddo Manufacturing, the company has added 47 employees, including five salesmen who are on the road, and retains nearly 40 of the old company's former dealers.

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"We have a dozen or so [people] that have been there for 25 years-plus that we were able to retain, so it's not like we're a new company," says Breed, whose employees have hundreds of years of combined experience in the industry.

There are people who tell him he was crazy to restart a boat company in the middle of a recession, but Breed is confident his boats will sell.

"If you've ever been in the boat business, it's hard to get out. It just gets in your blood," says Breed. "When you know there's an opportunity there and that it is a good product and you don't have to go in without any dealer base or without any knowledge as to what you're doing, it makes it a much easier decision."

Breed continues: "It should be a very easy deal for our dealers. When you get a Caddo-manufactured boat you should have to do nothing but put a battery in it and some fuel and any accessories you would want to add."

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Breed says Caddo tries to do as much as possible in-house so it doesn't have to rely on outside vendors. "You can control the costs," he says. "You can also react to what the market's doing much quicker than a big corporation can."

In its 2009 catalog, Caddo features eight VIP models ranging from 18.2 to 23.2 feet, three Deckliner models ranging from 18.4 to 24.2 feet and a variety of BayStealth models up to 24.6 feet.

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The boats are 100 percent composite, Breed says, and each will be water tested before being shipped.

"It's a challenging time," Breed concedes. "There's nothing but challenges and opportunities. We're up for the challenge, and we're looking at the opportunities."

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue.

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