Bertram president talks big changes
Since May, Bertram Yacht has moved to a new location, added key executives and is in the process of assembling a talented workforce – all moves Bertram President Alton Herndon said will allow the 50-year-old boat builder to grow.
In May, Bertram announced it would leave its Miami home to move to Merritt Island, a boat-building hotbed that Herndon said was chosen over 30 other locations the boat builder visited as far north as Virginia Beach, Va.
Herndon said its Miami facility was constricting the size of boats Bertram was able to build. For example, any boat over 60 feet was too large for the location’s travel lift, requiring Bertram to use a 500-ton crane in order to launch its recent 80-foot model.
The inconvenience, combined with Miami redeveloping the facility’s surrounding community into a high-end commercial district, forced the move.
“We can correct things by spending a lot of money on the facility, but a heavy-industrial, large boat manufacturing operation would not be suited for what [Miami] has planned in the area,” Herndon said.
The Merritt Island facility located on 37 acres allows the boat builder to comfortably build 80-foot vessels with beams that extend to 24 feet. And if future plans involve building larger vessels, the facility is easily expandable, according to Herndon.
Merritt Island is also home to a large marine workforce with experience in boat building.
“We are in a community with tons of boat builder talent and a great pool to draw from,” Herndon said. “The strong marine presence is icing on the cake.”
Within three weeks of announcing the move, Bertram Yacht received more than 1,000 resumes from applicants looking to join the new facility. To help find the best from that pool, Bertram hired Brooks Marine Group, a recruiting firm for the marine industry.
“We can teach a good person, but if we cant attract those that already have that knowledge, whether it is in electrical, mechanical, carpentry, whatever, that is even better,” Herndon said.
The boat builder has also added to its executive team, recently announcing the hiring of Robert Ullger to head its engineering and product development. Herndon said Ullger’s history with custom-built saltwater fishing vessels has given him knowledge in both the design and function of the segment.
Don Smith, the recently hired vice president of sales, said the new location is extremely accessible for prospects, which is one of the reasons staying in Florida was important.
Smith said many of Bertram’s customers are from Latin America. Only a three-hour drive from Orlando and its airport, Bertram will remain easily accessible for both domestic and international customers.
“A lot of our customers will want to come to the plant and look at the boat they are going to buy, then they will want to come and see the boat being built,” Smith said. “This location was the best from a logistics standpoint.”
The facility will open by year’s end, and Herndon said his team will be in place by then with more hiring announcements in the near future. At first, the boat builder will still focus on 60- to 80-foot vessels but will also be looking at new markets.
“As far as flexibility goes, we can go well over 80 feet with this facility. We can go smaller, larger, and look at other yachts that we may consider in this facility,” Herndon said.