Poor Economy Takes Toll On Luxury Boat Building Business

BEAUFORT, NC - Bill Schwabe is Vice-President of Lightning Yachts in Beaufort.  Few years ago, his business was booming.

"Back in the hey day, you couldn't build boats fast enough.  That's when everybody was spending money," said Schwabe.

The business started out building 60-foot boats from the ground up.  Then, the economy started sinking.  To save his business, Schwabe went from building new boats to restoring old ones.

"There's a ton of boats out there and people are buying them.  They end up restoring or rebuilding them and still end up spending less money and essentially have a new boat," said Schwabe.

This new line of work gave hope to employees like boat electrician, Ashley Guthrie, who has been with the business through its highs and lows.

"It started getting slow. Then, it got slower and slower, and we all started to get a little worried," said Guthrie.

Being in the boat business, owners and employees have to be flexible.  It is a benefit to its employees.

"It helps add to my resume.  I've learned pretty much a little bit of everything. It's all help in the long run," said Guthrie.

Lightning Yachts has a 37-foot project in the works which means the boat building business is making a comeback.

"It's coming.  We're seeing it in fits and starts, but it's coming," said Schwabe.

Until then, Schwabe and his crew will restore something old into something new.

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