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Hinckley sheds 49 workers at Maine facility

The Hinckley Co. is not immune to the challenges of today’s economic climate. The boatbuilder last week laid off 49 people at its Trenton, Maine, production facility.

The eliminated jobs represent about 9 percent of the company’s work force, which is currently at 580 — half in manufacturing, according to Ed Roberts, vice president of marketing and product development at Hinckley.

“It’s a sign of the bigger picture,” Roberts told Trade Only Today Thursday at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis. “The slowdown is larger than we expected. The first two quarters of 2008 were fine, the third quarter was OK, but we’re a little nervous about the change in the economic picture looking forward. We have a backlog of eight months, but we like to have it at 12 months.”

Roberts summed up his sense of potential Hinckley customers. “They have the money, but they don’t want to pull the trigger.”

He said the company expected to experience a slowdown in an election year, but was surprised by the scope of the nation’s economic troubles.

“It is a double-whammy,” he says.

Beyond the layoffs, Hinckley is also cutting back on expenses.

“Instead of four boats at the Annapolis show, we have only two, and we’ll also cut back on our presence at [the] Fort Lauderdale [show],” he said. “We’ll also eliminate all non-essential employee travel.”

Noting that service remains a good revenue stream despite the economy, Roberts says Hinckley still has expansion plans in that sector.

“We have eight boatyards on the Eastern Seaboard, and we will expand and add yards, but at this time we can’t make [specific acquisitions] public,” he said. “We are also developing our line of powerboats to round out the product offering, meaning the 50-foot segment.”

Roberts said the company has an eye on emerging markets abroad. “But it is difficult for a direct-sales, direct-service company like Hinckley because we need to find yards that have a sales presence.”

— Dieter Loibner
dloibner@gmail.com

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