Indiana boat makers, sellers see coronavirus business boost

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Many Indiana residents have taken up boating as a way to safely enjoy the summer amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Northern Indiana manufacturers of RVs and recreational boats are struggling to keep up with demand after being closed earlier this year, the South Bend Tribune reported.

“I’ve been in this industry for about 15 years, and I don’t ever remember it being this busy,” said Jeff Roth, vice president of marketing at Barletta Boat Co. in Bristol. “The demand for boating and the boating lifestyle is out of control.”

Barletta recently announced it would begin operations in January in a new $7 million production facility, creating 250 new jobs.

Scott Gayman and his wife Merale bought a new boat since they wouldn’t be able to travel too much this summer. The family’s new Sweetwater pontoon is docked in Mishawaka.

“We’ve become a lot more popular,” Gayman said. “It gives us something we can all do as a family.”

Figures from the National Marine Manufacturers Association show that new boat sales jumped significantly as states began easing coronavirus travel and business restrictions in May.

“Total sales in May were the highest they’ve been in a decade with upticks across all segments compared to April,” said Sarah Salvatori, a spokeswoman for the association. “The new data indicates a very positive start to the summer boating season, with increases in new boat sales across all major segments. The last time we saw such strong sales in a single month was back in 2007.”

Stevens Marine in Michigan City doesn’t sell new boats, but business is on the rise with the sell of used boats and repair services for those with personal watercraft.

“People were locked down for so long,” owner Harry Stevens said. “So once they opened up the marinas, a lot of people wanted to jump in a boat.”

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