August 14, 2003

 
   

Twin Vee more than 
doubles plant size
By Susan Port

FORT PIERCE -- Roger Dunshee said he can make a unique claim for a boat maker.

Since founding Twin Vee PowerCats Inc. nine years ago, he has never laid off a single employee. 

In fact, the avid fisherman has gotten pretty used to hiring.

The company has been growing at the rate of 40 percent for the last couple of years, he said, and as evidence, there's Twin Vee's latest move. The boat maker relocated last month from a 30,000-square-foot plant in Port St. Lucie to the former Lowe's in Fort Pierce, an 80,000-square-foot building at 3101 U.S. 1.

Dunshee will add 20 employees immediately for his 80-person staff, and hopes to employ up to 200 and double production to 1,200 boats a year over the next 12 months.

"We've seen steady growth since we've started," Dunshee said. "Most boat builders did see a drop in business. We didn't. We sell a lot of boats when the economy is up and when the economy is down." 

Twin Vee is on track to post sales of about $10 million this year, Dunshee said. The rise in sales has a lot to do with the demand for the boats he's designed, he said.

Twin Vee builds power catamarans, which are twin-hulled boats. Dunshee said the design makes for an easier, smoother, drier ride, using less horsepower than traditional single-hulled boats.

The company spent $2.15 million in June to buy the former Lowe's building and another several hundred thousand dollars to transform the former home improvement store into a boat manufacturing plant.

Twin Vee sells 14 boat models ranging in size from 10.5 feet to 36 feet, and in price from $3,000 to $200,000.

Lori Fried, spokeswoman for the Chicago based National Marine Manufacturers Association, said boat sales were flat after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, but have been experiencing a boom over the past year. Sales are up 9 percent overall, which she said has a lot to do with "a renewed emphasis on staying close to home."

"Boating is a great activity for the whole family," Fried said.

When Dunshee started looking for a site to expand, local economic developers were a big help in persuading him not to move out of St. Lucie County, he said. Twin Vee had been receiving offers from cities in South Carolina, Georgia and the Panhandle. 

"He's been great to work with," said Patricia Tobin, development director for the city of Fort Pierce. "I admire people like him who take a concept and turn it into a company and are able to employ lots of people. He's excited about what he does."

And Dunshee, 56, said the company has a lot of growth potential.

"It's too good of an opportunity not to continue," he said. "There is too much demand for the product." 

Production head David East, who persuaded Dunshee to set up shop in Port St. Lucie in 1997, said the catamarans sell by word of mouth.

"It's an easy sell," he said. "It's going to grow no matter what we do." 

Dunshee said he expects Twin Vee to be five times as big as it is now in the next four years. The company is planning to build another 40,000 square feet of space on an as-needed basis.

"I can see us outgrowing this facility in the not-too-distant future," East said.

By Susan Port, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer: Email:
susan_port@pbpost.com

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