Kvichak Marine Industries Inc., Seattle

Winner: Manufacturer of the Year (Large Companies)

May 27, 2010

By Bill Virgin

Kvichak Marine
From left, Kvichak Marines Brian Thomas, Jim Meckley and Keith Whittemore.

We know everything we build is a workboat, Kvichak Marine Industries says on its website. The recession notwithstanding, being a versatile builder of aluminum workboats instead of pleasure craft or yachts has been a good place to be lately.

Kvichak, with 226 employees, is nothing if not versatile. It was founded in the early 1980s in a garage by three commercial fishermen Jim Meckley, Keith Whittemore and Brian Thomas who wanted to make sails for racing boats. Now, Kvichak turns out aluminum passenger ferries, fishing boats, whale-watching catamarans, pilot boats, even hovercraft. Five years ago, it bought Marco Pollution Control, a designer and manufacturer of oil-spill recovery equipment, to broaden its line of response

A more recent project is Kvichaks partnering with a Wisconsin boatyard that bid on and won the Response Boat-Medium contract, an effort by the U.S. Coast Guard to update and standardize its fleet of utility boats. Kvichak established a division in Kent to build the 45-foot boats; the team has so far delivered 20 boats at about $2
million each and expects to deliver 30 more in the next 12 months, and the
overall contract could include as many as 250 vessels.

A growing concern for those who buy boats is emissions. Kvichak is working to green up its boats by incorporating post-combustion treatment systems to hold emissions below EPA requirements. Such systems have been incorporated in Kvichaks latest contracts, four high-speed catamarans for San Francisco Bay, and three all-weather pilot boats to operate in ports along the coast of the Netherlands.