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Boat makers lay off employees

Sat., Aug. 2, 2008

CLARKSTON – Two companies that make jet boats in Clarkston are laying off employees because of slow sales blamed on high fuel prices and the struggling economy.

ThunderJet laid off about 40 employees but has already rehired 10. Renaissance Marine Group has laid off 22 workers.

“We are planning on hiring them all back little by little as we beef things back up a bit,” said Darrell Mills, president and chief executive officer of ThunderJet.

He said dealers reduced their orders after fuel rose to more than $4 a gallon and financial markets stumbled amid problems in the lending industry. But he said he sees signs of a turnaround and is waiting for dealers to place orders for the 2009 model year.

“We see a bright future,” he said. “We have a special market. About 40 percent of our boats go into Canada, and the Canadian market hasn’t been hit as hard as the U.S. market.”

Renaissance builds Duckworth, Weldcraft and Columbia welded aluminum boats. Bruce Larson, director of administration, finance and marketing for the company, said the bad economy is forcing people to be more thrifty.

Mills agreed.

“A lot of the money being used for recreational purposes has not completely dried up, but they have definitely gotten tighter because the second mortgage market has taken a hit,” Mills said.


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