Parent company Brunswick Corporation has announced a restructuring of Sea Ray that will close the Flagler plant with its roughly 400 employees.
PALM COAST, FL – June 25, 2018 – Parent company Brunswick Corporation has announced a restructuring of Sea Ray that will not include the Flagler plant or its roughly 400 employees.
Brunswick announced in December that it planned to spin off (sell) Sea Ray so today’s announcement to close the plant should not come as a surprise. However, the prewarning in no way softens the news of closing for Sea Ray workers or Flagler residents, all of whom have benefitted from Sea Ray’s presence. Sea Ray has long been one of the county’s largest private sector employers. Its well-paid skilled workers earn well above the local average wage.
The Sea Ray plant is located between Roberts Road and the Lehigh Cut (just off the Intracoastal Waterway north of the Flagler Beach bridge.
SEA RAY PARCELS
The decision to restructure Sea Ray follows an unsuccessful six-month effort to sell the division. "Sea Ray remains one of the most aspirational and premium recreational boat brands, and our sport boats and cruisers set the industry standard," said David Foulkes, president – Marine Consumer Solutions. "We will focus our resources on advancing our position in these segments, with an emphasis on the growing and evolving 24 – 40-foot categories. Moving forward, Sea Ray will continue to offer new products, features, and services.” The Flagler plant builds primarily 50+ foot yachts and sport yachts.
The Role of Politics
Some may argue that vocal nearby residents and Flagler Beach officials played a role in the Brunswick decision. This vocal minority has long complained about the styrene odor detected when the winds are in the wrong direction, though Sea Ray was never found to be non-compliant with federal emissions standards. Laughably, 27 of the 28 local homes were built after the plant opened in 1984.
Flagler Beach’s strong resistance to a simple parking lot expansion at the plant (even though the plant is not in the city) was an obvious impediment to a constructive relationship going forward.
The Business Case
Others may agree with the Brunswick stance that it was strictly a business decision; the types of boats built locally are simply not the products that are selling in today’s market. Having said that, the local plant was the beneficiary of Brunswick product line production relocation during the Great Recession. Ironically, much of the repositioning at that time brought larger boats to Flagler.
Perhaps, both viewpoints have validity.
The roughly 40-acre plant site is zoned industrial. An adjacent vacant 24.4-acre parcel south of the plant is zoned PUD. Both are in unincorporated Flagler County. Any decline in property tax collections triggered by devaluing the idle plant will fall nearly equally on the county and Flagler Schools. The broader economic impact of the loss of over 400 well-paying jobs will be profoundly greater.