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Sales have Scout Boats thinking expansion

Business at Scout Boats has risen about 25 percent during the last four years, in contrast to the industry average of 6 or 7 percent growth in the period, fueling a $2.5 million expansion that should add 300 employees in the Charleston, S.C., region.

That’s according to owner Steve Potts, who said during a 25th anniversary dealer meeting that increasing demand for larger products is driving the expansion at its South Carolina facility.

Hurricane Hugo nearly wiped out the then-fledgling boatbuilder in 1989, but Scout’s boats now are at more than 75 dealers in 25 countries.

Demand for larger models is fueling a $2.5 million expansion in Summerville, where the payroll is "right close to" 240 workers, Potts told The (Charleston) Post and Courier in a Q&A.

"Our five-year plan is to add another 300 employees to that," Potts told the publication.

Potts attributed the company’s success through the downturn to the 18 new models it introduced between 2008 and 2010, a time when “none of our competitors were coming out with any new models,”Potts said.

The biggest trend Scout sees is a transition from what it has traditionally built -–boats 25 feet and under –- to boats from 25 to 42 feet.

“The demand for bigger stuff …is off the charts,”Potts said.

That trend has, in part, fueled the expansion, he said.

“The demand for our bigger boats is such that, in some instances, we have a waiting period of six months,”Potts said. “We were losing sales because we didn't have the capacity to meet the demand. The biggest reason for the new facility is it's going to build a new 42-foot boat and a new 38-foot model. That will free up the rest of the facility ... to build more of the other stuff.”

Scout’s newfound popularity as a yacht tender can be partly attributed to in-house research and design, he said.

“We design and build all our own tooling,”Potts said. “I’d say today nearly 90 percent of the companies don't do that. They outsource it. ... I've considered that. My problem with going that route is that the designs end up being homogenous, in that I can look at the design of a new model boat and know who did it. The design of our boats ... and the style lines and all that we create, and our look –– it's our character.”

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