Shipyard is on the rebound

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Inc. CEO  Len York stands in front of a catamaran the  company is building for San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transit Authority. - Spencer Webster / The Record
Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Inc. CEO Len York stands in front of a catamaran the company is building for San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transit Authority.
— image credit: Spencer Webster / The Record

New CEO says Nichols Brothers is now at capacity

FREELAND — Less than six months after the company closed its doors, laid off its entire workforce and declared bankruptcy, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Inc. now is so busy that the shipyard is turning away work.

The Freeland shipyard is working at capacity, CEO Len York said.

“The company really is probably better funded today than it’s ever been,” York said. “Baydelta Maritime, Inc., Minette Bay Shipdocking and San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transit Authority have come back to us with more work for us.”

“We declined a yacht hull project because we’re out of capacity. We have declined to vote on a repair job for the X-Craft. We’ve got more work than we can do,” he added.

It’s also a reason why the company did not bid on the state project for the construction of the 50-car Steillacoom II ferry.

Nichols Brothers has opted to subcontract with Todd Pacific Shipyards, York said.

Even so, the company is lining up future work.

“We’ve been bidding on a pilot boat for the San Francisco Bay area and bidding as a subcontractor on a U.S. Navy contract building parts and component that would go to another shipyard,” York said.

Despite all the work that is coming the shipyard’s way, the company is taking a cautious approach as it hires back its work force, he said.

“We had 180 employees when the company shut down. Today, we have just north of 100,” York said.

“We have eight more starting next week and

I am thinking we’re going to have between 120 and 140 people and kind of settle down there, let things catch up with business and make sure we’re being productive,” he explained.

The company has also lured back workers that went to other shipyards and the Boeing Company.

“We are getting some workers back, people who value the lifestyle and the shorter commute to work than the higher pay and benefits,” York said.

The ink is still wet on two contracts between Nichols and Baydelta Maritime for two more tug boats, one of which is scheduled to begin in the middle of April.

“I signed the first contract last week and will be signing the second one today [April 3],” he said. “We’re charging ahead and not wasting time.”

York — who replaced former Nichols CEO Matt Nichols and took over the shipyard’s top management position in February — has taken the helm of numerous companies that found themselves in dire straits financially. He said the turnaround is continuing for South Whidbey’s largest private employer.

“I’ve made a career out of working with some companies that are financially distressed. Most of them had similar problems to what Nichols Brothers had,” he said. “But there is a reason for this company to exist. It has a place in the market. There’s a great work force and it has a reason to prosper.”

“It just needed some team building, some financing and holding people accountable for their actions,” York added. “Their job was to build boats on schedule, within a budget and make a profit. We lost sight of the ‘make a profit’ part.

“Today, we’re building boats we know how to build, we’re on schedule and we’re doing it at a profit.”

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or swebster@south

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates