It’s a Literal All-Hands-on-Deck Situation

As Willis Custom Yachts plans to add 90,000 square feet of new manufacturing space (and an additional 45,000 square feet for marine services) to increase production of its signature vessels by four to five times the current output, the company is teaming with the Martin County School District and Indian River State College to develop marine apprentices.

“All our boats are handmade,” says Doug West, president and general manager. “The different trades involved are carpentry, paint, and fiberglass, electrical, mechanical, electronic, deck work. So, we’re going to need a lot of help for the technical aspects and we’re going to have to develop the talent.”

Willis Custom Yachts isn’t the only recently planned expansion in the marine industry. Martin County’s number of marinas and marine centers is set to increase. Stuart commissioners recently approved Atlantic Point Marina on the 10-acre former Evinrude testing site just east of the old Roosevelt Bridge. The $80-million project plans a boat barn with capacity for 455 vessels—some as large as 50-foot—and dock space for boats as large as 160-foot.

“Martin County has 18,000 registered boaters—and there are 46,000 registered boats on the Treasure Coast,” Jeff Hardin, principal in Atlantic Point whose company, Straticon Marine, is also building the project, told us in our latest addition of Martinomics. “But the dry storage options, by our research, are less than 4,000 countywide. And we could always use more slips, so Atlantic Point can provide big benefits on both fronts.”

And in the Village of Indiantown, the 33-acre Indiantown Marine Center primed for large boat builders and ancillary marine maintenance, repair and operations is nearing completion thanks to the investment of Joe Walsh and under the leadership of Dan Romence, President.

Considering its strength and growth potential, it’s easy to see why the Business Development Board of Martin County refers to the marine industry—which generates nearly $1.5 billion a year regionwide and employs more than 7,000 people across the Treasure Coast— as one of our “Hubs of Excellence.”

Strongly in favor of both endeavors, the BDB has expressed our support during the approval process and remains committed to helping all projects attract and train their workforce. One of the most encouraging economic trends locally and nationwide is the increased awareness and support for young people to pursue skilled trades and vocational educations rather than opting exclusively for traditional college degrees.

The marine industry offers job variety, the satisfaction inherent in creative work, the chance to enjoy the beautiful outdoors and entrée into a profession with a proud, rich local legacy.

Nothing worthwhile is easy, of course, and every market presents its own challenges, but when considering the past, present and future of Martin County’s marine industry, there’s clearly a sea of opportunities—and lots of smooth sailing—ahead.

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