by Ken Ibold
Updated 11 months ago
Central Florida is feeling the effects of a slowdown in the boating industry.
By Ken Ibold
Boat makers are running into choppy waters this spring -- a time when sales are normally brisk -- and the effects are being felt in central Florida. Sales of small boats were off 10% to 30% nationally during the past six months. Sharing the blame for the decline are higher fuel costs, sagging consumer confidence and tighter credit.
"The boating industry definitely goes through cycles," says Byron Capo, spokesman for Orlando-based Regal Marine Industries. "We are a leading indicator, because even small boats are a luxury item. But this is kind of the opposite of what we normally see because of the time of year."
While cutbacks have been few for Regal, which employs 650, the company recently shelved plans to expand a 300,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant in Orlando. Instead, the company bought a 123,000-sq.-ft. plant in Valdosta, Ga., from Sea Ray.
Boston Whaler, with 412 employees in central Florida, is responding with a production slowdown at its plant in Edgewater, while Sea Ray laid off 500 production workers in four states, including employees at plants in Edgewater, Merritt Island and Palm Coast.
The production slowdown and layoffs were part of a series of "prudent" measures designed to cut costs, says Dan Kubera, spokesman for Brunswick Corp., which owns Whaler and Sea Ray. The company is also working on product mix, inventory control, manufacturing processes and supply chain management, Kubera says.
Meanwhile, Orlando-based Correct Craft is mum on what the slowdown might mean for its plans to move from the 10-acre south Orlando site that has been its home for 76 years to 137 acres in east Orange County.
The good news, though, is that the hard times don't stop the companies' need to innovate. Brunswick is diverting part of the cost savings it achieved through its belt-tightening into research and development. While some of that research will be into ways of reducing costs through smarter manufacturing, it will also include improving existing models and working on new designs.
Regal is also planning to introduce five new designs for the 2002 model year, with much of the focus on big express cruisers and sedan bridge motor yachts. Correct Craft is also exploring the possibility of offering boats larger than its traditional Nautique line of ski boats.
In the News
Apopka -- Sawtek Inc. is being acquired by TriQuint Semiconductor Inc. in a stock swap deal worth about $1.3 billion. Sawtek will become a subsidiary and will continue to sell its products under its name.
Cape Canaveral -- Want to pick the brains of astronauts while picking at your vegetables? The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is betting you will. It is debuting its "Dine with an Astronaut" program, every Wednesday for lunch at 1 p.m. and every Friday at 5 p.m. for dinner at the complex through next month. Prices start at $29.95 for adults and $19.95 for children ages 3-11. Tickets are available online at www.kennedyspacecenter.com.
Lake Mary -- Attorneys.com, publisher of directories for the legal profession, is launching a toll-free telephone service providing consumers with referrals to lawyers. The service, 1-800-attorney, was due to be launched in June after the company got $4 million in fees from law firms interested in being listed.
Dynamic Healthcare Technologies cut about half of its Lake Mary headquarters workforce. The company employed 171, half in Lake Mary and half in Waltham, Mass. The cuts reportedly affect about 40 to 50 of the headquarters staff, but the company refused to give any specifics other than to say some jobs had been eliminated.
Maitland -- Charles Schwab cut its central Florida workforce 20%, laying off 305 workers from its call center and other local offices. The company announced in March it would cut 13% of its national workforce.
Orlando -- SeaWorld Orlando launched the summer hiring season by boosting its pay for 700 summer jobs to $6.65 an hour, up 20 cents to 45 cents per hour, depending on the position. The increase makes SeaWorld the highest-paying theme park for seasonal workers.
Hotelier Harris Rosen paid Universal Studios $30 million for a 230-acre site near the Bee Line Expressway. Rosen plans to build a 1,500-room resort, spa and convention center. The facility will have a golf course, tennis courts and 250,000 square feet of meeting space. Plans call for construction to start late in 2002, with the hotel opening in 2004.
Triton Network Systems, a telecom equipment maker, suffered a sharp decline in orders and laid off 52 of its 260 workers.
Orlando International Airport agreed to pay nearly $6 million in back property taxes that stemmed from an eight-year battle over the Hyatt Regency's tax status. The property appraiser sued to collect the tax in 1993, and the case has been in court since. Ironically, Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty, who was property appraiser at the time, now sits on the Aviation Authority board. Crotty excused himself from the voting.
Universal Studios plans to move its creative team from Los Angeles to Orlando. It offered early-retirement packages to employees who did not want to leave southern California. The move affects "a few dozen" engineers, architects, artists and writers.
Cirent Semiconductor and Greensboro, N.C.-based RF Micro Devices will team up to develop next-generation microelectronics for the cellular phone industry. The deal calls for RF Micro to invest $58 million in advanced factory equipment at Cirent's plant. RF Micro will create an engineering team of about 20 scientists who will work with Cirent in designing and manufacturing the new technology.
Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Healthcare System both began offering $15,000 signing bonuses to critical-care nurses, hoping to alleviate a shortage. Nurses employed by both companies say the bonuses have led more to a swap of nurses between the two chains than to an influx of nurses from outside the area.
Galaxy Nutritional Foods (AMEX-GXY) has landed a contract with Pizza Hut to supply non-dairy cheese substitute to more than 40 restaurants in Ohio and Indiana. The six-month test will assess how well consumers respond to being offered the option of a veggie-derived "mozzarella cheese." Galaxy would not put a value on the contract.
Digital TV is up and running. Orlando's three major television network affiliates began broadcasting digital signals a year after the FCC originally required the move.
Sanford -- American Trans Air, a charter airline flying between Orlando and the United Kingdom, will switch from using Orlando International Airport as its destination to Orlando Sanford International Airport. ATA flies about 110,000 passengers a year between Orlando and the U.K. ATA also flies scheduled domestic flights, which will remain destined for OIA.
Church Street Station: Under New Management
ORLANDO -- Church Street Station has new owners, whose first moves were to shut down the Terror on Church Street haunted house attraction and then Rosie O'Grady's Goodtime Emporium.
The owners, a partnership that includes real estate veterans Robert Kling, Maury Carter and Daryl Carter, say they'll soon present plans for rejuvenating the 27-year-old downtown entertainment complex. They paid $15.9 million for the retail/entertainment center. Seller Enic PLC of London paid $11.5 million for it in April 1999 and reportedly lost $2 million a year.