Brock Elliott is general manager and founder of Campion Marine, Inc., a family-run firm in British Columbia, Canada that has carved out a niche using bio-resins in manufacturing its boats. He says his company is the first boat maker that manufactures all its boats using bio-resins. The company sells more than 37 models and 48 variations of boats, ranging from 16 to 30 feet in length, in more than 30 countries.
How has the recession affected your business?
I come from a banking background and make sure we stay extremely conservative. I believe we survived because we are family owned and debt free. We began our business in 1974 and have weathered 38 years of economic storms. Sales are down not just in the U.S. but all over the world. I believe that housing has to settle out first, and then the boats will follow the housing. As a company, we are down significantly and the situation in the U.S. hurt us. We used to ship 250 boats to the U.S. per year, this year we probably shipped 25 boats to the U.S., which takes us back to the 1960s numbers in volume of sales.
How has your business responded to this economic downturn?
We are diversifying, and we sell boats in 30 countries worldwide. We just issued a press announcement on our first shipment to China, and we are building boats for customers in countries like New Zealand and Switzerland.
Are there any segments in boating that are doing better than others?
Pontoon boats are what is really selling, and that is why the market is shifting. Baby boomers, demographically, are 50 to 65 years old. They want a big deck and a big space. They want to go slow, have a BBQ, and put 12- 13 friends onboard.
Do you have a “green” strategy?
Right now, “green” seems to be more important to Canadians than to Americans. We moved to green nearly four years ago and my goal is to be the environmentally friendly leader in the boat industry and in boat manufacturing. Ashland Chemical, a supplier for our resins for fiberglass, came to us and said, “We would like you to test this product and see if it’s everything in the lab that it is in the real world.” We built two boats and the lab results showed the elongation is better with the bio-fibers.