Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kentucky houseboat manufacturer turns $7,500 state grant into $3 million in sales, much in Dubai

A Southern Kentucky town of 6,000 that calls itself the "Houseboat Manufacturing Capital of the World" went from high times when the economy was good, to devastating times when the economy took a downturn, to getting back on top thanks to innovation and initiative -- when one company turned a $7,500 state grant into $3 million in sales much of it in Dubai, reports The Lane Report, a Lexington business publication. (Stardust Cruisers photo: A Kentucky-made houseboat in Dubai)

Monticello, near Lake Cumberland, was the center of a cluster of houseboat manufacturers that provided the region with around 1,000 jobs. The Wall Street collapse and the Great Recession slashed demand for the luxury product and reduced the number of plants in the area to four. One of those was Stardust Cruisers, which once sold houseboats all over the world, but had cut its staff from 70 to as low as 15 employees in 2007-09. But a $7,500 export initiative grant from the state Cabinet for Economic Development "helped company officials travel to Dubai, where luxury houseboats are in high demand," the story says. "On the trip, Stardust Cruisers made valuable contacts, setting up a distributor list that has resulted in more than $3 million in boat sales. The company now employs more than 50 people and continues to hire more workers."

Stardust, which predicted in June its annual sales would pass $6 million, triple the sales from 2009, is continuing to look for new ideas to improve its company, as well as partnering with other businesses and towns in the state to continue to build local economies, the Lane Report writes. One project is to work with a local company to build new structural insulated panel used in houseboats, and another is to create Houseboat to Energy Efficient Residences, which are energy-efficient homes designed for affordable housing that will be constructed in a small town. Stardust chairman Bruce Chesnut told The Lane Report, “This is an example of how the government can make a difference in the future livelihood of folks here." (Read more)

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