Boating industry rides recovery wave

Published online: Jun 20, 2011 News Barbara Wieland -
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Triton Industries is doing more than simply staying afloat.

Amid worries about a double-dip recession, the Delta Township manufacturer of pontoon boats is motoring along quite nicely. Sales are up 50 percent so far this year compared with the first half of 2010. Twenty people have been added to the payroll since the start of the year, bringing employment to 75.

May 'best sales'

"We had our best sales month ever in terms of dollar value in May," said Scott VanWagenen, president of the privately owned company. He was not more specific.

Things were quite different in 2009, a year VanWagenen called "disastrous." With the nation mired in a recession that began in December 2007, few people were in the mood to buy big-ticket luxury items.

Boat sales nationally fell about 60 percent.

But there are indications the rebound at Triton, known for its Manitou boat line, isn't a fluke.

Recreational boating saw numbers at a record in 2010 nationally, when 32.4 percent of American adults, or 75 million people, participated in the leisure activity. That's the highest percentage since 1999, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Many factors may be contributing to the rise in boating's popularity.

As baby boomers enter retirement, many are opting to spend time on the water. And others who still work are seeking out lower-cost alternatives to vacations that include airfare, hotel stays and meals. Not even high gas prices seem to be fazing boaters.


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