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Hinckley debuts 34-footer

Maine boatbuilder The Hinckley Co. launched a new model that it says is a product of the “deep, dark” recession.

A Bangor Daily News report said the launch of Hinckley’s T34 — a picnic-style boat intended for day trips — helps illustrate the recovery the company has made since early 2009, when the number of boats on order dropped and the company laid off 90 people at its Trenton production facility. Since the spring of 2009 the company has rebuilt its work force in Maine and now employs more than 250 in the state — more than 180 of them in Trenton.

Hinckley vice president of sales Philip Bennett told the newspaper that the company knew the layoffs would be temporary and that, as the economy was changing, Hinckley would need to adapt with it.

The design of the 34-foot, water-jet driven vessel, launched July 2 from the Hinckley service yard in Manset, Maine, was conceived at the same time the sagging economy was prompting customers to cancel or delay their orders of late 2008, he said.

“This boat was a product of those deep, dark times,” Bennett said.

The starting price of the T34, just over half a million dollars, and its 34-foot length makes economic sense for the company’s traditional customer base, he said. It also serves a modern market where people have more scheduling demands and perhaps less time to get out on the water.

“You have to adapt to changing environments,” Bennett said.

Hinckley CEO Jim McManus said in a statement that the company did a fair amount of market research when it started to design the T34.

The boaters that Hinckley polled, he said, “overwhelmingly expressed an interest in a simpler boat, one without too many of the things that often go unused or require a lot of maintenance.”

In January 2011, as Hinckley was investing in new products and rebuilding its operations, it was sold to Scout Partners LLC, a capital investment firm. McManus, who has been Hinckley’s CEO since before that acquisition, predicted at the time that the company would continue to rebound.

Hinckley now employs about 450 people at nine locations on the East Coast, which include production sites in Trenton and Southwest Harbor and seven service sites out of state, company officials have said.

The boat can achieve speeds of 32 knots. It is the first of six boats Hinckley is building to order, according to Bennett. He said the company does not have employees who will work solely on the T34, but that a “sizable percentage” of the builder’s 185 employees in Trenton will help fill those orders.

He said the six boats on order will help keep employees busy well into 2013 and that the company has enough work scheduled on various models to keep employees busy for the next two years.

Click here for the full report.

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