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Congressman Larsen tours two Freeland boatyards
Congressman Rick Larsen toured several Whidbey Island destinations recently including Freeland’s Nichols Brothers Boat Builders and North Cross Aluminum.
Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Brothers, led Larsen on a tour of current projects. The Freeland boat building company has three vessels on the yard, a ferry and two tugboats.
Nichols Brothers is a recipient of the Assistance to Small Shipyards grant program, which provides federal reimbursement to the company up to 75 percent of improvement costs.
“The grant has really been a success, everyone has been using it effectively,” Larsen said.
Larsen has visited the Nichols Brothers several times over the years and is impressed with the skilled manufacturing by the company. He said it was good to see the federal grant money go to good use by Nichols Brothers. The congressman hopes the money will improve the economy and help the company hire more people for living wage jobs.
“The grant has made us more productive by using high-tech machines and we have been able to hire more people, which is our number one priority,” Nichols said.
At North Cross, owner Tim Leonard showed Larsen the progress of the fire boat being made for South Whidbey Fire/EMS. Each piece of the boat was cut and ready to assemble. The boat for South Whidbey Fire/EMS is a first for North Cross, though not its employees, Leonard said, and should be completed and delivered to South Whidbey Fire/EMS in January.
“Hand rails and awnings are our bread and butter, it has kept us alive until this boat,” Leonard said.
Leonard said the community supported his company winning the bid to build the new marine response boat and he hopes to make South Whidbey residents proud.
“We’re local and have been here forever,” Leonard said. “We will be able to service the boat forever.”
Being noticed by Congressman Larsen, as a small business not even two years old, was a bonus, Leonard added.
Larsen journeyed north earlier in the day. He stopped by the Naval Air Station and discussed the future of the base. He also visited Olympic View Elementary School in Oak Harbor and discussed new legislation for schools on the military base and Native American reservations.
Larsen said he intends to show his peers in Washington that the small grant program, which helps small businesses around the country, doesn’t get a lot of attention but it has a big impact. He wanted his colleagues to know that this kind of program works.