A small firm sails away with a $600M contract

Kvichak Marine Industries had to find a way to double its annual production, so it brought in a partner.

(FSB) -- When the Coast Guard decided to replace its fleet of 25-year-old response boats, Brian Thomas, vice president of Kvichak Marine Industries, assumed his company would never get the $600 million multiyear contract.

Kvichak (kvichak.com), which traditionally makes no more than 15 vessels a year, would have to double its annual production.

Kvichak Marine Industries' president Keith Whittemore, VP Jim Meckley, and VP and COO Brian Thomas, aboard one of Kvichak's 54-foot catamarans.

But by partnering with Marinette Marine (a division of the giant Manitowoc Co.), Kvichak won the bid in June, which will add $15 million in annual sales, raising the firm's total to $30 million.

Kvichak, a Seattle-based design and construction firm, has been making everything from catamarans to hovercraft since 1981. But while Thomas knew his 45-foot aluminum patrol boat would win Coast Guard approval, his company lacked the management experience to meet such high demand.

"A partnering agreement for a contract like this is not the norm in the industry," says Thomas. "But we needed Marinette's management strength and reputation."

Meanwhile Marinette, which makes large steel vessels, can draw on Kvichak's expertise for designing and engineering smaller boats.

Before it starts manufacturing the boats, Kvichak will build a new facility in western Washington State, adding nearly 100 employees to its current team of 130. Kvichak will split production of the vessels evenly with Marinette; each will produce one boat every 3 weeks for at least eight years.

Thomas, 50, is hardly modest about his company's ambition: "We will build the best patrol boat the world has ever seen."  Top of page

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