Nichols Brothers lays off workers


FREELAND — Nichols Brothers Boat Builders has laid off its entire workforce, employees said Friday morning as they left the shipyard.

Company officials declined to talk about for the sudden layoff, which caught many by surprise, but said information would be released at a later time.

The boatyard is the largest private employer on the South End.

In recent years, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders maintained a workforce of 200 to 250 employees on average. The company is Whidbey Island's third largest private employer.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders has been on the island since 1964.

Matt Nichols has been president since 1972, when he and his brother took over running the company from their father, Archie Nichols. The company is now in its fourth generation. Matt Nichols' son, Bryan, works alongside his father as president of the company.

The company builds a variety of vessels ranging from yachts and tugs to small ferries.

This year the boatyard worked on a 325-passenger car ferry for Pierce County. Nichols Brothers also worked on the Grand Luxe, a 230-foot tour boat that will be used as a floating art gallery and sail between 34 cities on the East Coast.

Nichols also has contracts to build three ocean-going tugs.

Earlier this year, the company submitted a proposal to build ferries along with other Puget Sound shipyards for the Washington State Ferries.

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