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Lewiston jet boat builders collaborate, eye European markets

A group of boat builders in the Lewiston/Clarkston area have partnered to market welded-aluminum jet boats internationally.

By joining forces, the Snake River Boat Builders Export Program 2010 is expected to make once-competing businesses partners and change the role of the region as the “Jet Boat Capital of the World.”

Jet boats have been manufactured in the Lewis-Clark Valley since 1967. They are ideal for a number of uses, including recreation, commercial, law enforcement, leisure, sport and work.

“We’re optimistic that opening lines of communication and showcasing our crafts will lead to new opportunities,” said Doug Riddle of Riddle Marine Inc. in Lewiston. “We know things won’t happen right away.”

Boat builders in the Lewiston-Clarkston area employ more than 140 people in the multi-million dollar industry. They sell to customers all over the country. Those sales include significant contracts with tour operators, law enforcement, military, fish and wildlife agencies, environmental testing firms and consumers.

The export program will help the group expand its marketplace and identify broader exporting opportunities through a focused marketing effort.

Gary White with P’Chelle International has developed the strategic program that involves training and education in international trade, international media exposure and a foreign buyer trade mission.

Among the manufacturers participating in the initiative are Aztec Fabrications Inc./Phantom Jet Boats, Bentz Boats LLC, Custom Weld Boats, Gateway Trailers, Hells Canyon Marine, Renaissance Marine Group Inc., Riddle Marine Inc., SJX Jet Boats Inc., and Thunder Jet.

Working with the U.S. Commercial Service, and under the lead sponsorship of the Clearwater Economic Development Association, the program will initially focus on European markets, primarily Germany. Program elements include:

• Extensive training on doing business in the European Union, including CE Mark Compliance, as well as such areas as culture, tariffs, distributorship agreements, packaging requirements, licensing, payment options and protecting intellectual property.

• International media exposure: the editor of Skipper Magazine, one of Europe’s premier boat industry trade publications, visited the Lewis-Clark Valley June 1 to 3 for an article on the area’s jet boat industry.

• Foreign buyer trade mission: qualified foreign buyers from Europe will visit the manufacturers, touring facilities and developing relationships the first week of November.

• The Snake River Boat Builders’ Pavilion group exhibit in Duesseldorf Jan. 22-30, 2011, the world’s leading international show for boating and water sports. More than 238,000 visitors from 60 countries are expected at the nine-day show.

“There’s been a great deal of support for this initiative from a number of organizations in the two-state region, and the companies that are participating are to be commended for their dedication to organically grow this manufacturing cluster in an intentional and strategic way,” White said.

Organizations sponsoring the program include: Clearwater Economic Development Association, Southeast Washington Economic Development Association, Northwest Intermountain Manufacturers Association, City of Lewiston, Port of Clarkston, Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing & Technology, City of Clarkston, Port of Lewiston, Asotin County, Nez Perce County, Clarkston Chamber of Commerce, Hells Canyon Visitors Bureau, U.S. Commercial Service/Spokane and USDA Rural Development.

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