Boating industry shows signs of recovery

(WBIR) As the Knoxville boat show comes to town, many in East Tennessee are anxious to get back on the water. Some are feeding their need with new equipment as they get ready for summer. It's an area that's seen a resurgence since the recession.

"The marketplace is growing, we're growing and we're very happy about it," said Jay Povlin, vice president of Sales and Marketing for MasterCraft, which is based in Vonore.

"Business is really good for us right now. We're building 14 to 15 boats a day and our employees are really excited," said Cory Duggar, director of engineering for Malibu Boats.

But It hasn't always been that way for the $35 billion industry. The 2009 recession hit boating companies like Malibu Boats and MasterCraft hard.

"Business vaporized, so to speak, and MasterCraft, like every other brand, had to make hard decisions in terms of what we do," Povlin said.

"We had to go down in production numbers. Sales were down," added Duggar.

Even businesses like Maryville-based Boatmate Trailers, which makes trailers for the entire wave boat industry, were hit hard by the economic downturn.

"We did take a heavy hit, but we were looking really positive. So coming into 2010, things got better. 2011 things were better," said Mark Gibbs, sales and marketing manager for Boatmate Trailers.

That momentum is expected to continue. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) projects U.S. recreational boating sales will grow by five to seven percent this year.

"It's really come back strong," said Duggar.

"Last year we actually had the best year we've ever had in recorded history so that right there shows you that the economy is back," said Gibbs.

The Downtown Knoxville Boat Show runs through Sunday, March 9th. For more information visit


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