Boat manufacturer moves into Willacoochee - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Boat manufacturer moves into Willacoochee

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October 14, 2004

Willacoochee - Workers at Whittley Cruisers are busy sanding, painting, and building the perfect sea cruiser. "We specialize in family cruising boats you can live on, they can fish out of it, ski behind it," said Owner Neville Whittley.

They've been a leading boat manufacturer in Australia for five decades, now Whittley Cruisers is expanding into the United States. "A lot of our business in Australia is export and the Australian dollar against the American dollar fell away and we became uncompetative," said Whittley.

After combing the country for the perfect location, they set up shop in Willacoochee, Georgia. "It has good labor skills, some good highways that can transport the boats, and some close ports like Savannah, Jacksonville and Brunswick," said Whittley.

A building that's been vacant since another boat manufacturer left two years ago and workers already trained to do the job also helped attract the Whittleys. "The workforce we have here has a lot of experience in fiberglass and building boats," said Lace Futch of the Southeast Georgia Rural Development Center.

The Whittleys hope to produce about 200 boats in their first year of operation, and for every boat that cruises out of Willacoochee, more money is pumped back into this town's economy. "It's going to bring in more jobs and increase our tax base," said City Councilman Kenneth Hunkapillar.

Eighteen new jobs for now, but that's expected to increase soon. "About 100 in the next couple of years," said Whittley.

The Whittley's foresee a bright future in this small town, and plan on making this plant just as successful as the one across the globe.

posted at 4:10 P.M. by ashley.harper@walb.com