ZEPHYRHILLS — Allcraft Marine was shedding employees, but the Dade City company knew the recession wouldn't last forever and that Americans would get back to what they love.
"As Americans we're going to recreate. You can only hold it back so long," said boat builder Bryan Lucius, 35, who predicted a turnaround in boat sales as the recession ebbed.
Banking on that, the company decided in February 2012 to purchase storied Century Boats from Yamaha Motor Corp., and move the 88-year-old company from its Panama City home base to Pasco County.
"It's one of the oldest names in the industry," Lucius said. "It had such a rich history. We felt we could be stewards of that name and carry it forward."
There was only one problem.
Allcraft Marine wasn't large enough to contain all the equipment, gear and inventory that came with the purchase. So Lucius started looking around and found a vacant 52,000-square-foot building in Zephyrhills, more than twice the size of the Dade City operation.
The move took four months and 66 tractor trailers.
Lucius, meanwhile, dissolved Allcraft and invested $100,000 to renovate the Zephyrhills space after thieves ransacked the wiring for copper.
It had been idle for five years. The city chipped in $25,000 to offset renovation costs.
Now Lucius, who saw Allcraft dwindle to two employees during the recession's height, predicts strong growth for Century, which now employs 28.
Both Pasco County and Zephyrhills are banking on the company as well. They've each awarded $63,000 to Century as part of an economic incentive program.
Under the program, companies can receive funds by hitting specific employee targets. In Century's case, the company proposes hiring 42 employees over the next four years. It must keep the workers for five years or return the money.
Lucius isn't worried about that and has hopes for Century's future, though American boat builders learned hard lessons from the recession.
"It looks very bright," Lucius said. "Builders are operating with a much leaner manufacturing style. We're trying to listen to the market versus predict the market."
Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.