‘We’ve been working our butts off’

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Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (center) along with Philip Faulkner (fourth from left) and members of the Avid Boats team and local officials.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (center) along with Philip Faulkner (fourth from left) and members of the Avid Boats team and local officials.

A new company in Mississippi is launching a line of aluminum fishing boats. Avid Boats will manufacture 18- to 23-ft. center consoles and 18- to 21-ft. bass boats. Avid president Philip Faulkner told DJournal.com that he expects to create 75 new jobs in the next two years, while investing $1.6 million in the business. The 80,000-sq. ft. facility, located in Amory, Mississippi, was purchased six months ago. There are currently 18 employees.

The goal is to have 75 units completed by year’s end, with a workforce of 40 by then.

“We’ve been working our butts off,” Faulkner told Trade Only Today. “We’ve gone from a concept to production in just six months. We now have three boats coming down the line. We have a phenomenal team in R&D, CAD technicians, boat assemblers, and other support staff. It feels like we’re starting out strong.”

The startup plans to offer six models, producing 750 units in 2020 and increasing to 1,500 units per year by 2022. Faulkner said he comes from a long line of boatbuilders, including his grandfather, and father Phil, who built up three successful boatbuilding companies after he launched his first startup in 1987.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant was at the ceremony for the opening of the Amory facility on Tuesday. “We had the official ribbon-cutting, with all the pomp and circumstance, along with the governor and other dignitaries," Faulkner said. “Now, we’re glad to get back to business.”

Though only 28 years old, Faulkner says he has been in the business “all of my life,” including executive positions with his father’s company in his early 20s. “I knew I wanted to start my own company, and figured we had the dealer contacts and boatbuilding knowhow,” he says. “We just needed to find the right segment.”

Faulkner decided to build aluminum boats, rather than fiberglass. “I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to that sector, but I realized it’s a sleepy industry compared to fiberglass, which is a rat race. Particularly on the aluminum center console and bass-boat designs, many features are dated. In my opinion, there isn’t a lot of innovation going on.”

The company designed and launched a 21-ft model called the 21 FS, with plans to produce three bay boats and three bass boats, for the saltwater and freshwater markets, over the next 12 months. “I wanted to bring some of my experience with fiberglass over to aluminum,” says Faulkner. “We’re building a boat that might look like fiberglass but is a more affordable product with added value to it.”

The boats will have proprietary features like “Trutaper” gunwales, a 25-inch transom for better performance and a leaning post. “The Trutaper design gives a nice curved taper to the bow, rather than the traditional A-frame you’re used to seeing on most aluminum products,” says Faulkner.

Acknowledging that retail sales in the aluminum fishing market have been declining, Faulkner still sees a potential “ton of upside” in the aluminum segment. “We wanted to exploit that pocket in the market and bring the innovations and features of fiberglass in at a more affordable price. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but have more forward-thinking designs,” he says.

The company has partnered with the Mississippi Development Authority, which assists startups in that create new jobs. The quick move from concept to production has also impressed community groups.

“I feel like this is a special project. The Faulkner family means a lot to Monroe County. They actively chose to invest in a new venture,” Chelsea Baulch, director of the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce told the website. “Often times, we just assume that our existing industries are going to expand and take for granted when various sectors such as furniture and chemical add jobs. But we definitely did not take for granted a family that’s been here before in the boating industry actively looking to locate a new plant.”

Baulch said Avid Boats means Monroe County now has a marine sector in its industrial portfolio. “From the minute he walked in my office in December, he had a goal of manufacturing a boat in August and obviously he has met the goal, which is outstanding,” she said. “We do not see projects happen this quickly but when we do, we have to act fast.”

Faulkner says that once the boats are completed, the startup will look for feedback from dealers and consumers for modifications and future models.

“We look forward to being a vital contributor to the continued growth of this area,” says Faulkner. “The boat business has been a part of my life since I can remember, and it has always been a dream of mine to start from the ground up and continue my family’s legacy as a successful boat manufacturing operation.“

Faulkner says he named his company “Avid” because he’s a “passionate” boater. “I’ve been avid about boating and fishing all my life,” he says. “It seemed like a good fit.”

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