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BOAT BUSINESS BUOYED BY DEAL

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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MetalCraft Marine, a builder of high-speed aluminum boats based in Kingston, Ontario, is teaming up with one of the largest marine manufacturers in the world to further expand its business internationally — and that means an expansion is in the works, too, for the company's Clayton branch, MetalCraft Marine U.S.


MetalCraft will supply five models of 28- to 45-foot aluminum patrol boats, which will be known as the Sentry series, under a recent supply agreement with Brunswick Commercial and Government Products, Robert Clark, MetalCraft contracts manager, said Tuesday.


"We were always friendly competitors. They had a lot of respect for our products and we had a lot of respect for their products," he said.


MetalCraft, which branched out to Clayton about a decade ago, now is short on manpower and space.


"Our shop in Clayton is already full and we're looking for space to rent right now. We're also looking to hire five to six new employees by next spring," Mr. Clark said.


He said this deal will allow MetalCraft to expand and better streamline its manufacturing process. For the Sentry series, the company will complete the basics — the metalwork, paint job, window installations and insulation — at its Kingston and Clayton shops and then deliver the boats to Florida for Brunswick to finish up any remaining work. These boats will bear the names of both Brunswick and MetalCraft Marine.


Mr. Clark said the arrangement also will give MetalCraft access to Brunswick's worldwide sales and service support infrastructure, while giving Brunswick access to MetalCraft's expertise in aluminum craft design and manufacturing and opening up the aluminum boat market for the company.


"This is a win-win agreement for both companies," Mr. Clark said. "We'll be doing some interesting research and development work together to build lighter, faster speedboats out of both aluminum and fiberglass."


Brunswick is the maker of Boston Whaler fiberglass boats and other well-known boat brands, including Bayliner, Quicksilver and Sea Ray.


MetalCraft, which was founded in 1987, specializes in custom aluminum patrol boats, fire and rescue craft and specialty vessels ranging from 22 feet to 70 feet in length. Most of the company's products stay in North America, but MetalCraft also builds boats for countries including Japan, Australia, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates.


Most recently, MetalCraft's FireStorm 70, built for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department in Florida, was named 2010 Boat of the Year on Dec. 1 at the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans, where it was honored for its design and craftsmanship.


The $4.4 million aluminum fireboat reaches speeds up to 42 knots, or about 48 mph, shoots up to 17,892 gallons of water per minute and is equipped with the latest sonar and navigation technology.


While many companies in both Canada and the U.S. were hit hard by the financial crisis, business has been booming for this Kingston-based boat builder.


Mr. Clark said the company already is "booked for an increase in 2011."


Among other projects, MetalCraft is building two electric boats — a patrol boat and a septic pump-out boat — for the federal Environmental Protection Agency. And with the new partnership with Brunswick, the company is hoping to secure two multimillion dollar contracts with the U.S. Coast Guard, Mr. Clark said.

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