Wisconsin-based custom houseboat and yacht builder SkipperLiner Industries Inc. shut down operations Friday.
The French Island company permanently laid off 55 employees in Wisconsin and eight in Arizona, some of whom had only recently been hired, according to an article in the LaCrosse Tribune newspaper.
Several workers Friday afternoon said they were pulled off a more than $4 million boat order, given the news and then escorted out, the locks changed behind them, according to the article.
Just five months ago, SkipperLiner gained a $175,000 loan from La Crosse County's revolving economic development fund, along with $325,000 from the state.
"We do not have clarity on what the next steps are at this point," county administrator Steve O'Malley said. No local property tax money went into the loan, which instead came from state sources for the purpose of business development.
"This starts a process of receivership and sale of assets," he said. "We had hoped that this loan would have helped prevent this closure. It's unclear what the effect will be on the creditors."
"This was an extremely difficulty decision. My family has been involved in this enterprise since 1985 and it is a major part of our lives. Many of those employees let go today have been with the company for 25 years or more. It is tragic that these highly skilled and loyal people will lose their jobs due to this disastrous economy and banking collapse in our industry," owner Noel Jordan told the newspaper.
Company officials could not be reached for comment this morning by Soundings Trade Only.
According to the company's Web site, nearly 1,000 boats have been built by SkipperLiner since 1971. The company manufactures custom houseboats and yachts ranging from 40 to 120 feet, and Coast Guard-certified passenger vessels in the 40- to 200-foot class.