Goetz Reprieve As Racing Yacht Build Restarts

Goetz Custom Sailboats has rehired nearly its entire work force after an international customer resumed payments on an order for a high-end racing yacht.

The 34-year-old Bristol boat builder went into receivership Jan. 6 after the contract with the customer, a private individual from Scotland, was suspended because of the worsening international economy. As a result, the company laid off all of its 75 employees.

But after the client recommitted to the project, Goetz rehired about 40 percent of its workers last week and another 40 percent on Wednesday. About 60 people are now working at the company’s shop on Broad Common Road.

Eric Goetz, founder and chief executive officer of the company, said yesterday that despite the problems, he has received tremendous support from his workers and the local boat-building community as a whole. Over the past few weeks, sometimes as many as 30 employees were at work even though they were not getting paid, he said.

“They had faith that we’d get back up and running,” Goetz said.

The turnaround for Goetz is a small piece of good news for the state’s marine industry, which has seen the steady growth of recent years slow considerably as the economy has weakened. Pearson Composites, of Warren, laid off half its 120-person work force Jan. 16 because of slumping sales. Freedom Yachts, in Middletown, and Albin Boats, in Portsmouth, both closed within the past year.

“There’s a lot of carnage out there,” Goetz said.

The problems with the Scottish customer had such a deep impact on Goetz Custom Sailboats because the company typically works on only one or two boats at any given time. Those yachts are very expensive, some of the carbon-fiber composite boats cost as much as $8 million.

Without the cash flow for one of the two boats currently under construction, the company quickly fell behind on payroll and payments to suppliers. Employees were let go Dec. 31 after being paid.

Now that work is back under way, the boat for the Scottish client is set to be completed at the end of July. The second boat under construction, which was commissioned by a customer in England, will not be finished until next year.

Goetz said that he is trying to line up more jobs, but the economy is unfavorable.

“We’re talking to people,” he said, “but it’s a tough time to sell things, especially luxury items.”

Although Goetz is relieved that his company has been able to start up again, its future is uncertain. Receivership is a form of bankruptcy in which a court appoints a trustee to either liquidate a company or sell its assets to pay the accumulated debt. The petition for receivership filed in Providence County Superior Court says the company owes Citizens Bank approximately $2 million.

Goetz said that Providence lawyer Thomas S. Hemmendinger, the court-appointed receiver, has yet to schedule an auction to sell the company’s assets. When Hemmendinger does, Goetz said he will be there to make a bid.