Aluminum boat manufacturer employs up to 10 workers with plans to grow
By Mark Stayton, February 10, 2015, Go Skagit
The Port of Skagit recently welcomed boat manufacturer Hard Drive Marine, formerly of Bellingham, to a larger home at the port’s La Conner Marina.
Owner Tom Day said the 6,000-square-foot facility has more indoor work space than his previous shop, along with bigger doors, access to the Swinomish Channel, increased visibility and additional resources for boat builders.
“We’d love to grow in the building we moved into in La Conner. It increases our manufacturing footprint by about 50 percent,” Day said. “We have plans to possibly expand the building we’re leasing.”
The company joins a few other La Conner-based boat builders that have located or expanded there in recent years. Mavrik Marine moved from Bellingham in fall 2011 and expanded within seven months.
La Conner Maritime Service also expanded to larger facilities in 2012 and added manufacturing to a suite of services that includes boat repairs, conversions and upgrades.
Hard Drive was established in 2007 and has constructed approximately 40 boats since then, according to a port news release. Day said employment is currently between eight and 10 workers with plans to grow.
Designed in-house to custom specifications, the company’s mainstay is commercial fishing craft. Orders for recreational boats and landing craft have increased over the last two years as well, Day said.
Other perks of Hard Drive’s relocation include access to a new 110-ton boat hoist the Port of Skagit installed in March and proximity to La Conner Maritime Service, a supplier of fishing equipment for Hard Drive, Day said.
Scott Peterson, the port’s director of business development and real estate, said the building Hard Drive occupies was vacant. It was used most recently as a temporary home for Gielow Pickles to salvage and process some of the 2013 Skagit Valley cabbage crop.
“The community benefits down there,” Peterson said of the new business moving in. “The workers buy lunch and bring business to the community.”
Manufacturing employment has been a major part of Skagit County’s steady economic recovery since 2011, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department.
Employment in the industry has grown from a 10-year low of 4,716 in 2010 to 6,300 in December that bested even 2007 levels before the Great Recession started in 2008, according to labor statistics from the department.