Family boatbuilder stays afloat with new business

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A Washington state boatbuilding family is starting over with a new company after having to close their former business as a victim of the poor economy.

Before the financial meltdown in fall 2008, the Lindhout family operated BoonDocks Boats & Motors on the Bellingham, Wash., waterfront and the SeaSport Boats facility. The 38,000-square-foot SeaSport facility produced as many as 100 boats annually in recent years, employing as many as 55 people, the Bellingham Herald reports.

Today, however, the Lindhout brothers - Jeff, Jon and Jake - own a scaled-down new business called Triton Marine Industries. At Triton they can build boats from the remaining lines they own - Osprey, C-Dory TomCat and Skagit Orca.

After what they've been through, the brothers said they consider themselves fortunate to be in business on a smaller scale, employing 14 people, many of them from the SeaSport facility on Meridian Street.

"It was such a hurricane of problems to deal with. We could adjust to these problems separately, but it happened all at once," Jon Lindhout told the newspaper. "It was too strong, too ugly and too quick for many businesses in this industry."

It was toward the end of 2009, Jeff Lindhout said, when they knew they had to close BoonDocks and consolidate at the Meridian Street facility. The company put together a proposal to rework its financing at Horizon Bank, but Horizon was just weeks away from being shut down by government regulators and didn't have the flexibility to extend credit.

Jeff Lindhout told the newspaper the family learned that no other bank was interested in their proposal, given the state of the economy.

After Washington Federal took over Horizon Bank, it went through the loans on Horizon's books to determine which could be renegotiated and which couldn't. Washington Federal decided to take possession of the SeaSport property and the boat line. The remaining boat lines Triton has were financed through other means, Jeff Lindhout said.

Triton's current business plan is to remain at a smaller, manageable level while the industry recovers.

"There won't be the bounce back like the way it used to be [with previous recoveries]," Jon Lindhout said. "People love boating, so there will be some demand again for new boats, but this [recession] has put such a scare into so many people that it has changed how they spend money."

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