Heady times for Intrepid

New owner’s willingness to spend means more innovation, rollout of new models and a move to full resin infusion
Intrepid’s owner brings the capital to introduce more than one new model annually. The 407 Cuddy debuted at the 2016 Fort Lauderdale show.

Intrepid’s owner brings the capital to introduce more than one new model annually. The 407 Cuddy debuted at the 2016 Fort Lauderdale show.

The 34-year-old Florida company has a new owner willing to invest capital to introduce more new models annually and advance innovation. In addition, Intrepid’s effort to employ the resin infusion building process for all of its boats is picking up steam with the introduction of its first resin-infused hull over 40 feet — the 407 Cuddy.

Intrepid has been using resin infusion to build its decks and liners for 15 years, but company president Ken Clinton has taken his time making the switch for the hulls.

“I wanted a way to inspect an infused hull — to check the laminate’s integrity through and through,” says Clinton. And he has one — a scanning area that uses infrared thermal imaging to show the innards of the laminate. “When you decide to infuse hulls, you do not take it lightly, and I didn’t, and that is what took so long for its implementation [with the hulls],” says Clinton. “Infused hulls are amazing. But they need to be done right — otherwise this technology can be your demise instead of a steppingstone.”

The company’s first infused boat — the 327-I — is about 300 pounds lighter than a non-infused model. “It’s not a bigger weight savings because with infusion we add more glass because we want to add bulk, strength and durability,” he says. “The only downside is that [resin infusion] is more expensive than building with open molds, but it’s worth it.” Intrepid debuted its second infused hull — the new 407 Cuddy — at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Intrepid, which has a manufacturing plant in Largo, Fla., and a sales office in Dania, Fla., will continue resin infusion implementation as it replaces current models and adds new ones. For instance, the 407 Panacea, which will replace the 400 Open, will be resin-infused.

An Intrepid crew pulls resin through the core of the 327-I — the first fully resin-infused Intrepid.

An Intrepid crew pulls resin through the core of the 327-I — the first fully resin-infused Intrepid.

12 models

The company builds 12 models from 24 to 47 feet — center consoles, cuddy cabins, walkarounds and sport yachts. It has 375 employees.

Intrepid Powerboats has been in business since 1983, surviving four owners and three recessions. Last December, David Gillikin — a Texas investor and a former Cummins engine distributor — became Intrepid’s fifth owner.

Clinton is very happy with his new owner.

“It’s great to have an owner who encourages innovation and backs it up with capital,” says Clinton, who already has begun to hire engineers and increase tooling capacity to accelerate the pace of innovation.

“I am going to prototype a lot faster,” says Clinton, who has been with Intrepid for 26 years and has been president since 2007. “What is important to our customer is innovation. We have always tried to be on the forefront of innovation. The problem has been how fast we’ve been able to innovate and bring more product to the customers.”

Clinton says the previous owners allowed him to run the business as he wanted, but there was a lack of capital expenditure funding.

Other boatbuilders “bring two to three new models to the market every year,” he says. “For us, it has been one new product annually — and it has been like that for a while. Now we will be able to produce three new models per year.”

Gillikin says he wants to build on Intrepid’s success, maintaining the builder’s high level of customer service while bringing capital to step up innovation and new-model production.

Thermal imaging helps ensure the structural integrity of the infused boats.

Thermal imaging helps ensure the structural integrity of the infused boats.

“This is a large investment for me from a personal standpoint,” says Gillikin, 42, of Dallas, the former owner of Cummins Southern Plains. “I have a real passion for trying to help management get to the next level of performance. A lot of that is going to be capital investment, but also strategic direction. I don’t want to make a big splash about Intrepid being purchased. I just want our customers and the entire team to feel like things will only get better.”

Gillikin bought Intrepid from Fulham & Co. in the Boston area, a private equity group that had owned Intrepid for 10 years, he says. He closed the deal in late October 2016, he says.

Gillikin says he was familiar with the Intrepid brand before he began negotiations with Fulham. Gillikin will not only bring capital expenditure funding, but also “knowledge of running a larger company than Intrepid.”

Ken Clinton

Ken Clinton

Gillikin had owned Cummins Southern Plains from 2008 to 2014. The business served as the Cummins distributor for Texas and Oklahoma. He sold the company to Cummins after the engine maker decided to buy all of its North American distributorships, he says.

“I had been looking for an operating company to invest in and looked at hundreds of companies,” says Gillikin. “As I got to know Ken, the team and the company’s business model, I became more and more impressed. We both share a passion for customer service. There are a lot of worthy competitors out there. What separates us will be the product and the customer service.”

Under the new ownership, Intrepid has begun building a 65,780-square-foot concrete pad that will eventually hold two 12,000-square-foot buildings. The extra space will allow the company to reorganize its operations and expand tooling.

Intrepid has about 135,000 square feet at its Largo site, which has four buildings. One of them is a relatively new $2 million administration building with an engineering department, customer design center and administrative staff offices.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue.


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