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Production line at Pioneer Boats set to expand

Jeff Dennis is a
Lowcountry native.
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The business model for producing Pioneer Boats in Walterboro is going well enough that expansion plans are now underway. The boat makers’ parent company called Carolina Composites took over the large warehouse space by Wal-Mart on I-95 in 2008. The pace of boat production was slow enough at first that not all of the warehouse space was in use, leaving them room to expand the production line in the future. A 40,000-square foot area inside the warehouse is now under extensive renovation and the goal is to add jobs and then to build more boats.
Henry Sikes is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Pioneer Boats and has been on board to oversee the addition of two more boat lines built in Walterboro. “When Pioneer moved to Walterboro we only had six different hulls of Pioneer Boats that we built,” said Sikes. “But now we offer 18 models and that includes 11 Pioneer, 5 Bull’s Bay boats, and 2 Avenger boats. All of these boats are formed in a boat mold and so just as the number of boat molds increases, so does the area needed to utilize them in a production line.”
The warehouse renovation project underway now comes with the kind of history that shows how this business is booming where past business went bust. “The large space that we are working in now was once a huge freezer serving as a distribution warehouse for Monarch Foods,” said Sikes. “When Monarch Foods moved on, the freezer was unplugged, leaving a large storage space that went unused. Over time the roof began to buckle in places due to water damage, and so Carolina Composites is replacing the 30-foot high roof.”
“Once we got going on this project we found out we had much more to do besides just fix the roof,” said Sikes. “Almost a foot of insulation material had to be removed from around the freezer room, and this created truckloads of debris including the wood that held it all in place. The Colleton County landfill has certainly seen an uptick of activity associated with our project. The steel girders and I-beams in the middle of the warehouse are fine, but we ended up adding steel supports to the side walls. So as the dust begins to settle on the construction we can now talk about how the business plans to grow.”
“By shifting parts of the current production line into the new warehouse space, we can improve the flow with the goal of building more boats per week,” said Sikes. “We will also improve our ventilation inside the entire facility, with an eye on the workforce. We pride ourselves on having employees from Colleton County and we hope the investments in facility upgrades will help with employee productivity and longevity in the future. It is projected that we will need 75 to 100 additional employees over the next four years to keep up with supply and demand.”
Bigger is better is the new trend in the salt water boats business. Bigger boats need bigger engines, so extra storage space is needed to store a variety of boat engines that customers may order with their new boat. The increase in storage space will also be used for bulk materials such as fuel tanks, propellers and other equipment that complete or customize boat orders. Having the necessary warehouse space on hand for this expansion is just one of the reasons that Carolina Composites is still happy about their move to Colleton County.
In another part of the warehouse some old office space that had gone unused is now being renovated to house the Crescent Cushion Company that will make boat cushions in-house. Amanda McSwain is already heading up the increase in boat cushion production, and overseeing the renovation of the old office space to accommodate her sewing needs. She is a sister to Carolina Composites co-owners Roy McSwain and Mike Holmes, and so this shows how they plan to keep this a family business into the future as much as possible.
When a business expansion is significant, such as this new boat production line, the trickle down effect helps the economy. They will be purchasing new products to use in the warehouse such as storage racks and ventilation equipment, and not just items specific to the boating industry. But the local boating community gains by being able to shop for boats made in Colleton County, and this company is setting the table to bring business pride to Walterboro for years to come.



Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com