September 2013 Marine Log Magazine
workboats The fast and durable jet boats of the Snake River are making their way to European waters Small boat builderS dream big Pacific Northwest grouP of builders look to take oN the world By Shirley Del Valle, Associate Editor T he waters of the Pacific Northwest’s Snake and Salmon River—known for being volatile—require vessels that are fast, agile, durable and able to handle a variety of water depths. It’s then no surprise that these waters have been the spawning grounds for some of the finest, most innovative jet boat builders in the United States. Four years ago a group of nine manufacturers—eight boat builders and one a custom builder of trailers whose operations are based in what many consider the “jet boat capital of the world,” the Lewiston, ID, and Clarkston, WA, valley—joined forces to create Snake River Boat Builders. The idea behind the consortium was to market the region’s jet boat building industry on an international level. 44 MARINE LOG September 2013 Each manufacturer in the consortium brings something different to the table— whether its making custom boats for fast white water, or building boats used in extreme shallow waters by law enforcement. When an interested party meets the consortium and wants to purchase a vessel, the purchaser is then referred to the appropriate manufacturer within the group. The strategy has proven successful. To date, the group has generated more than $20 million in annual revenue, and has increased employment and production for most of the manufacturers involved. The Snake Cluster Bringing a group like this together, however, doesn’t just happen. It takes work and a willingness to collaborate. Doug Mattoon, Executive Director, Valley Vision, Inc.—the area’s economic development association—says the first hurdle to building the consortium was “to overcome the natural competitiveness between these small manufacturers,” but the group members quickly “realized that by working as a consortium, they would all become more successful at the branding/marketing of their products.” Janet Bauermeister, Director, Spokane Export Assistance Center, U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, shares the sentiment, explaining that while the individual boat builders may have at one time or another considered themselves competition, they quickly realized that working together would, in essence, put them on a path to international success.