Boat company, local officials unite to mark ‘Excel’lent day

By DONNA RYDER – October 22, 2019
Associate Editor

Nearly two years ago, an email made its way through cyberspace from Excel Boat Company owner and chief executive officer Glenn Foreman to J. Paul Jackson in his marketing department.

Foreman wanted to ex-pand beyond his Mountain View, Ark., plant and he wanted Jackson to look at Tennessee. Luckily for this area, Jackson is a Tennessee native and he knew with its water, road and rail that northwest Tennessee would be the perfect location to expand the company. An official announcement noting the expansion would be expanding into Union City came in December 2018.

Foreman; Jackson, who is now business operations manager; and Excel Boat employees were joined by local business leaders and community members Tuesday afternoon at 601 Sherwood Drive in Union City to celebrate the expansion by having a “groundbreaking” ceremony. Except, since the 25,000-square-foot building, which was the first spec building constructed by Union City, was already there and no actual ground needed to be turned, Excel officials opted to have a ceremonial “demolition day” and took sledgehammers to a temporary wall constructed just for the occasion.

Jackson said they want people to know “this is real” and that to be at this point in the process of opening a new facility at the two-year mark is incredible.

Helping to take down the wall were Foreman and his wife, Connie; Jackson; Obion County Joint Economic Development Corp. chairman Art Sparks and chief executive officer Lindsay Frilling; Union City Mayor Terry Hailey; Charles Marquis of the Tennessee Valley Authority; and Blake Swaggert, job development specialist with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Northwest Tennessee Team. The actual wall demolition in the former VF Factory Outlet building has already been completeed and team members are ready to begin installation of its boat building stations. Jackson said flat aluminum will be shipped in as rolls, so there will be racks to store them near where the back entrance to the mall was located. North of that location and clockwise there will be cutting and routing tables, bending machines, welding stations, offices, a break room, a display room, washing and sanding stations, a floatation station, paint booths, rigging and finishing stations.

“We really lucked out that we found a building layout for what we needed,” he said, adding they hope to be completed with the station installation by March 2020 and that they can start building boats in June.

Foreman, who lives in Utah and grew up in the Great Lakes area, told the crowd gathered in the former mall that his business actually started in a garage making Mud Buddy motors because he needed a motor that could run his boat in very little water. Today, it is the largest manufacturer of such motors, making 56 different models.

His boat company actually started out of tragedy. Rivertrail, an aluminum boat manufacturer based in Clinton, Ark., made boats to pair with his Mud Buddy motors. An F-4 tornado flattened the town of Clinton and the boat factory. So, in 2009, Foreman decided to build the boats himself in nearby Mountain View, where a factory sat empty. It was a time when one-third of the existing boat companies would go out of business. 

That facility has since expanded, but Foreman said it is difficult to get raw products in and finished products out, which led him to look for a second location. He said Union City is perfect. The local facility will manufacture the company’s larger boats, including the four-season Storm Cat boats, which can get up to 24 feet, and a pontoon-style boat with a fully enclosed cabin that can measure up to 27 feet.

“We’re built tough ... and we deliver on time,” he said.

Foreman thanked many people in the local area who helped them secure the facility, as well as funding, including grants, incentives and loans from such entities as Tennessee Department of Economic and Community, Tennessee Valley Authority, United States Department of Agriculture, Obion County Joint Economic Development Corp., Union City and Obion County.

OCJEDC chairman Art Sparks said Excel’s tax abatement was the most unusual he has ever worked with because usually there is 100 percent abatement for the first several years, which decreases during subsequent years. But, Excel’s leadership did not want Union City and Obion County to lose property tax money that had been in their budgets, so the company will still pay the amount the city and county had been collecting during the abatement time frame.

Sparks said all jobs are important to Obion County, but that manufacturing jobs are the “backbone of the community.”