Sarasota’s Chris-Craft Corp. and its owner, Winnebago Industries Inc., have big plans.
As reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the blueprint for increasing the number of boat models Chris-Craft offers, the size of its plant and its workforce are about the same as they were before the recreational vehicle manufacturer bought the boatmaker in June. In fact, those plans were part of the reason it was an attractive acquisition.
But the capital that the publicly traded Winnebago, with a market capitalization of nearly $1 billion, can supply to fuel Chris-Craft’s progress can make those plans happen much faster.
“Over time, we’ll invest multiple eight figures in this business,” Winnebago president and CEO Michael Happe (pronounced Happy) said during a recent visit to Chris-Craft’s plant near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
“It’s pretty much our same growth plan we had before the acquisition, but now we can execute it more quickly,” Chris-Craft president and CEO Stephen Heese said.
Plans under consideration include:
• Expanding its plant on 17 acres at 8161 15th St. E. The company has site-plan approval from Manatee County to add 80,000 square feet of building, increasing its current 160,000 square feet by about a third.
• Adding up to 250 staff to its current payroll of about 340 over the next five years. The company had 20 openings last month.
• The immediate aim is to produce more boats and fill a gap in its lineup.
“There are parts of the market we don’t participate in and we’re going to be able to migrate into those,” Heese said. “Right now, we compete mainly above 25 feet and there’s a lot of market below 25 feet, so we don’t have to go very far down to pick up a lot of potential market.”
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