Skeeter Boats’ operations here re-started production last week, and Kilgore Economic Development Director Amanda Nobles said it is good to have them back.
“Resuming their operations certainly is encouraging,” Nobles said, “because with that, you have individuals who are working who have money to spend on lunches or on gasoline or anything, any kind of disposable income item that might be had. But the most important thing is the impact on the employees, the fact that they get to return to a more normal environment. I think that that’s good.”
Skeeter Boats, under the Yamaha umbrella, has been a part of the Kilgore community for many years.
“We have done a lot of agreements with them in the past for their expansion and actually enlarging their footprint, and it’s a really important industry to us for diversification,” Nobles said. “It is not related to oil and gas, and that’s the main purpose for Kilgore Economic Development, so they’re an important part of our efforts to keep diversification in our economy.”
Martin Peters, senior manager of communication with Yamaha Motor Corp USA, the parent company of Skeeter Boats, said that they’re taking extensive measures to keep everyone safe while getting back to work.
These measures include:
■ Health screens at the entry point before work begins, including a temperature check and symptom check.
■ Maintaining social distancing in all areas of the facility.
■ Providing and requiring the use of PPE (masks, gloves and carry bags) and monitoring their use.
■ CDC signage in all work areas, reminding employees of safe practices.
■ Standard Return to Work (RTW) Employee Health and Safety (EHS) and Emergency Response Team (ERT) plans put into place.
■ Regular communication and preparation for employees on the above.
■ Regular updates on all materials per CDC/OSHA.
“These guys have just been incredibly busy putting things back into production,” Peters said. “They’ve been closed since March 24, I think, and it takes a lot of work to sort of put things back together once you’ve stopped them.”
Nobles said they have offered Skeeter Boats and other primary industrial businesses access to a grant program offered for the COVID-19 impact.
“We are working with them to try to get that document signed so that we can help them offset some of the costs, disinfecting and buying masks and providing all the protection that their employees are gonna need as they come back to work,” Nobles said.
Jeff Stone, Senior Vice President of Skeeter Boats, is proud of the work his employees are doing.
“Protecting the health and safety of our workers is most important to us,” Stone said. “Working with so many changes is challenging, but our employees are accepting them and are happy to be back to work. We are now producing six boats per day after nearly 45 days of pausing production.”
Skeeter has such an extensive history in the industry – the first Skeeter Bass Boat was built by Holmes Thurmond in Shreveport, La., in 1948. It was 13 feet long, made with marine plywood.
The next decade, Skeeter was in on the ground floor of using fiberglass in boat production, and in 1961, the company relocated from Marshall to Longview. Skeeter first opened in Kilgore in the 1970’s, and then expanded its operations here in 2017, with the construction of a 43,000 square-foot facility.
Read more about Skeeter at skeeterboats.com.