I just returned from Flippin, Ark., and the 50-year home of Ranger Boats to attend an announcement of a new boat company, Vexus.
The announcement might have had less significance in the boating and fishing industry if the center of the leadership group did not include legacy family founding members of Ranger. That includes Keith Daffron, longtime Ranger leader, and Forrest Wood, founder of Ranger Boats. Daffron will be president of the new company.
Ranger continues to lead the marketplace with innovation and design under the leadership of President Bart Schad. The company builds both fiberglass and aluminum fishing boats in Flippin.
Looking from afar, a bit of the soul of Ranger left to form this new company. Though I do not see Ranger slowing down anytime soon, the new company could change the boating dynamic moving forward, especially in Flippin.
While I am truly excited for the team of Advanced Marine Performance, LLC, we did not see any designs or boats at the announcement. I do believe what they will be bringing forward in design and opportunity could be significant and truly unique.
No question the sum of the parts make up the whole and having those who have developed a brand before is an advantage. We see it in sports, but also in business. Experience matters and pride of ownership in the product can have significant value. Ranger has a strong affinity brand that Vexus will have to develop, but the leadership could shorten the curve.
Vexus facilities are a few blocks from current Ranger facilities in Flippin. A shift in how boats are built, what features they contain and what workforce works where will be the result. Time will tell how that all shakes out.
With ex-Ranger leaders at the helm, Vexus has insight that others would take years to develop. They have reputation, experience and the backbone financially to cut a significant swath once they get going. Primarily, they know how to build boats right. They also know the boating industry and its customers. They have more than 50 years of experience. Building a new environmentally friendly, state of the art facility from the ground up is an advantage, too.
Ranger is celebrating 50 years of making boats this year. The area also includes Bull Shoals and Mountain Home, Ark., a small geographic in the Ozark Hills that is home to Ranger, Triton, Legend, BassCat and now Vexus. Ranger, Triton and Vexus will have fiberglass and aluminum boats. Vexus will have four models of aluminum boats initially with fiberglass boats coming later.
This area is the Bass Boat Capital of the World and skilled boat builders will be at a premium, at least for the short term. Flippin has a population of 1,400 and nearby Bull Shoals and Mountain Home has a population of a little over 13,000. The new company could be a boon in real estate, business and job opportunity for the area.
Will there be enough qualified workers initially to make it all work? Vexus believes so and looks to hire 150 employees when fully operational.
To put it in perspective locally, the Brandt Group which will be hiring 300-500 employees here has a population base of more than two million people in the same size geographic area as Flippin, Bull Shoals and Mountain Home. What corn and beans are to Illinois, boats are to Arkansas.
The winners in this announcement initially could be those who put those boats together. The skilled welders, fiberglass builders and designers could possibly name their price. Time will tell on that one.
The announcement was at the Forrest and Nina Wood Outdoor Gallery and the room was full of employees, anglers and dignitaries from the state, regional and local level. There were numerous industry personalities/leaders in attendance as well.
Everyone there spoke about the air of optimism and the positive nature of how this was introduced. I believe this approach was geared to the community and area first and the boat secondary.
Asked why a new company, “Building boats is what we do,” said Daffron. I believe that came across loud and clear.
As someone who works in and follows this industry closely, I am excited, yet reserved. Vexus has the right leadership and vision, is doing it the right way with new facilities and equipment and does not want to rest on status quo. That should be good news to the consumer. Again, time will tell.