Scout Boats has made a remarkable comeback since the depths of the recession in 2009 when the Dorchester County boat builder was barely afloat with about three dozen employees.
On Tuesday, the Summerville company said soaring demand in the U.S. and overseas will propel the company to add 300 jobs by February 2015. It currently employs 215.
The 25-year-old company is adding 30,000 square feet onto its 182,000-square-foot facility as part of a $2.5 million investment. Construction will begin in August, and the expansion area will be fully operational early next year.
"Our company is changing in our product offerings, and demand for the brand Scout is growing tremendously," company President and CEO Steve Potts said.
The expanded factory will build composite parts for newly designed LXF series models and component parts for the new 275 and 320 Dorado series. Scout makes sport-fishing, fish 'n ski, walk-around and bay boat models ranging from 17 feet to 35 feet. A 42-foot model is coming soon. The hull of each boat is an original.
The brand is sold by 72 dealers around the globe.
"Scout Boats is very proud that here in Summerville are some of the most skilled craftsmen in the world of recreational boat building," Potts said. "Our premium brand is sought after around the world by some of the most discriminating boaters."
While demand for all boats is up across the board, Potts said several models of the larger boats - those longer than 27 feet - are sold out for the rest of the year.
Though boat demand is back, he cautioned that the boating industry has not returned to pre-recession levels.
"Recreational boating was hit harder than the housing industry," Potts said. "It's about 67 percent of what it was in 2007. Most of our industry is growing at a modest rate of about 6-7 percent annually."
With the help of the S.C. Department of Commerce's export assistance program, Scout has been able to make connections overseas, particularly in Mexico, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Colombia and Australia. That's part of the reason for the expansion.
"That's benefited us moderately," Potts said.
About 20 percent of Scout's boat sales go to foreign dealers, he said.
Gov. Nikki Haley hailed the expansion as an example of home-grown entrepreneurship.
"They began here in our state, and they continue to grow and strengthen our economy," she said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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