Tiara Yachts Stays Home For $14M Expansion Project

August 26, 2005
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HOLLAND — The entrepreneurial spirit did not skip a generation in the Slikkers family.

S2 Yachts Inc. CEO David Slikkers is continuing to build on the company his father, Leon Slikkers, started in 1974 with a $14 million expansion at the Tiara Yachts Holland facility.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has awarded the company a single business tax credit valued at more than $4.7 million over 13 years and an Economic Development Job Training grant worth up to $200,000 for training new employees to help with the expansion.

Construction is waiting on final approval on an additional $2.1 million in tax abatements over 12 years from the city of Holland, Slikkers said. There is no indication that there will be a problem with the approval, on which the state funding is contingent, he said.

"Once that's done and complete, we're hoping to break ground by the end of the month," he said. "Hopefully, we will just forge right straight forward as quickly as possible."

This is not the first large-scale change the company has been through. S2 Yachts started out as a sailboat company, eventually adding outboard powerboats, and then narrowed it's focus to Tiara inboard yachts and Pursuit Boats, a company based in Florida.

"It's an evolutionary process of growing and understanding the business and the marketplace," Slikkers said. "When you can successfully navigate those changes over a period of three-plus decades, I would say that's a good thing."

The nearly 80-acre Holland campus will be rearranged, Slikkers said.

"We have plenty of real estate to do the expansion right here on this campus," he said.

The 300,000-square-foot expansion will connect the two large buildings that are on the campus and will include a new lamination and tech center and an additional assembly line.

The newly connected building will be 800,000 square feet when finished.

"We'll be adding jobs already this fall," he said. "That will be almost a continuous acceleration and ramp-up."

There will be 100 to 125 new jobs in the beginning and the remaining 275 to 300 jobs will be added as new products are developed. The company has three to four years to add a total of 400 jobs to the area.

"These will be all of our normal manufacturing jobs," he said. "It's basically an expansion of all the jobs that we have today; it's just that we're going to need lots more of them."

Slikkers said that he has received community support for the decision.

"We've seen a lot more jobs exiting than coming to West Michigan. I think the community, as well as people in general, have been extremely positive," he said. "As we ramp up, I think it will just make our company a more desirable place to work in West Michigan, because they know our plans are to stay here in West Michigan and expand in West Michigan."

Slikkers said though Michigan is a costly state to do business in, the local and state governments are recognizing the need to be competitive and have helped the company with incentive packages

"We have an opportunity to take our manufacturing to a new level," he said. "It was a difficult decision to make, but I believe in the long term we'll be able to leverage the fact that we're here in West Michigan with the quality workers that we have available to us. We know these workers are capable of doing great things."

Randy Thelen, president of the regional economic development group Lakeshore Advantage, said the expansion may help inspire others.

"I'm a firm believer that when you see construction of that size, when you see the help-wanted ads go in the newspaper, that helps the mindset of the community," he said. "You start to see the steel going up everywhere and you start to realize we may have turned the corner."

Thelen said Lakeshore Advantage helped the company with the incentive package it received from the city and the state.

"The Slikkers family has been a strong employer for years, and this is going to take their company to even greater heights," he said. "Here in West Michigan, we talk about our zest for entrepreneurship and how we've got great examples across the region of just amazing entrepreneurs, and I think people always think of entrepreneurs in terms of start-up businesses. But here the Slikkers family has remained entrepreneurial throughout their business. They've never lost that entrepreneurial spirit and that entrepreneur drive to always grow their business and look for new opportunities."

Slikkers said there are multiple reasons the company has been successful.

"Certainly I think that the leadership that Leon provided early on, the core values that were instilled in us as boys and remaining true to those operating principles" are part of that success, he said.

Holland Area Chamber of Commerce President Jane Clark said the expansion was wonderful news to hear.

"The expansion is just another indicator of what a great place Holland is," she said. "The chamber was just so happy to see that the company was able to make decisions that would have such a strong economic effect on the community."

Clark said there are many talented workers who will be able to stay in the area because of the expansion.

"It's wonderful to see the economic opportunities that are being created for some of the folks that may have lost their jobs elsewhere," she said.

Despite setbacks, Clark said the area has a strong industrial base that is growing.

"I think Holland really has a climate of success, and workers and companies that want to make a difference. Although we've faced our share of tough times in the manufacturing sector, we're still good at making things," she said. "Slowly but surely — five employees here, 10 employees there — we're seeing expansions."    

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