Regional Report Eastern March 2012
Boat and its maker stay afloat
Queen Bee can’t talk, but it has quite a tale to tell, and Edenton-based Regulator Marine Inc., which manufactured the 26-foot center-console boat, hopes that story will strengthen the company’s recent resurgence. The vessel disappeared off Nantucket, Mass., in August 2008 after heavy seas tossed two fishermen into the Atlantic, forcing them to swim to shore. In January, the boat was found 20 miles off the northern coast of Spain, rusty, moldy and barnacled but still in one piece.
Its fiberglass hull kept it from breaking apart, and foam insulation — designed as a sound-deafening feature — kept it afloat. Under international law, the boat belongs to the Spanish authorities who recovered it, but Regulator is trying to salvage it to use as a marketing tool. After all, there’s a lot of promotional value in a craft that weathered the elements for 3½ years across 4,000 miles of ocean. “Enduring value,” is how Regulator President Joan Maxwell describes it. The company would display it at boat shows — where Regulator will distribute already-printed posters charting Queen Bee’s odyssey — or as a museum exhibit.
The publicity should help Regulator, which has drifted through its own rough seas the last three years. Founded in 1988, it was Business North Carolina’s Small Business of the Year in 1999. In 2004, co-founders Maxwell and her husband, Owen, were invited to the White House for an event spotlighting small-business successes. But the recession took a toll on the company, whose sportfishing boats range in price from $70,495 to $252,995. In 2008, it slashed its workforce from 160 to 11, and revenue fell 70% in 2009.
“They were pretty typical of the industry,” says Mike Bradley, director of boating-industry services for the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center, adding that industrywide sales and employment have dropped at least 50% since 2008. But Regulator’s sales have been slowly rebounding, rising 30% in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the year before. It now employs 65. “We’re seeing quite a bit of activity,” Maxwell says. “It’s not what it was in spring of 2009 — 2009 was a devastating year for our business. We’ve been able, by the grace of God, to remain in business and grow our business.”
Wilmington has the lowest apartment vacancy rate of any metro in the Southeast.
WANCHESE — Sailboat maker Gunboat will build a shipyard here, creating 71 jobs and investing more than $1.8 million within three years. The Newport, R.I.-based company makes luxury catamaran yachts capable of cruising the world. The average annual salary will be $27,093, higher than Dare County’s average of $24,128.
WILMINGTON — The city is negotiating with the Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball Properties to bring a minor-league baseball team here. The city has until July to identify teams that would relocate and what public support is needed for the project, though the deadline could be extended.
WASHINGTON — Canadian craft-yarn maker Spinrite Services will create 90 jobs here in three years and invest $9.1 million in a plant it recently acquired from Caron International, which sells yarn and latch hooks. Caron laid off 120 workers at the plant last year after the purchase.
WILMINGTON — Battleship North Carolina registered its best December attendance in 18 years with almost 6,800 paid visitors, a rise of 45%. Attendance during the last quarter of 2011 at the World War II memorial increased 13% from the same period the year before.
JACKSONVILLE — Onslow County commissioners appointed Sheila Pierce executive director of Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development Partnership. She replaces Jim Reichardt, who retired.
WILMINGTON — American Airlines is cutting its twice-daily flights between Wilmington International Airport and O’Hare Airport in Chicago, effective April 2. The flights began last July. Fort Worth, Texas-based American is reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.