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Bruce Wassom, a founder of Jetcraft, starts a new boat-building company at the old site

CENTRAL POINT ' A sadder but wiser Bruce Wassom has returned to the aluminum boat building industry.

Together with Medford accountant Tom Stady, he launched Rogue Jet Boatworks this month.

Wassom co-founded Jetcraft with Mike Boulton in 1990. the time he and Mike Corbett sold controlling interest to Harbercraft/Eagles in the fall of 2001, annual sales had topped &

36;8 million.

But the deal soured for the local operations in July 2002, when the Canadian firm without warning halted production at the East Vilas Road plant, spirited away most of the equipment and left 50 employees without jobs.

— It was kind of like losing a family member, said Wassom. Some of those employees had been with me for years and years. When you've been going to work at 7 every morning and going home at 7 every night, waking up and not having that place to go to work is really hard. When it all got settled, the lawyer told me to rip off the rearview mirror and go forward.

After the plant closed, words flew and lawsuits were filed.

Because the former Jetcraft workers lost their jobs as the result of a Canadian action, they were covered under North American Free Trade Agreement provisions. They have been retrained, using federal funds, in pursuits such as respiratory therapy and diesel maintenance.

When the legal dust settled, Wassom received an undisclosed settlement from Harbercraft, to be paid over a six-year period. He also was released from a non-compete clause and regained rights to a couple of his top designs.

You find out then, when you have &

36;40,000 to &

36;50,000 worth of legal agreements, that it doesn't mean anything until you have to fight a lawsuit, Wassom says.

In the new company,Wassom will handle the sales and marketing, while Stady, whose previous experiences afloat include being a destroyer navigator in the U.S. Navy, will oversee production and finances. The new plant remains at the old Jetcraft site, which Wassom still owns.

The plan is simple: Stay small, build higher-end inboard motor boats and don't go toe-to-toe with Jackson County's half-dozen other boat builders, who produce between 1,200 and 1,500 boats annually.

There are a lot of manufacturers building 30 different styles of boats, and you can't be efficient making that many models, he said. We're not going to build outboards or stern drives, and we're going to specialize on the river end of it and do it hopefully better than anybody else.

Rogue Jet Boatworks' half-dozen welders and riggers will produce four to five boats a month in the &

36;25,000 to &

36;50,000 range. Jetcraft. by comparison, produced 30 to 35 boats monthly, ranging from &

36;10,000 to &

36;50,000. Painting will be outsourced.

We have almost two months' worth of orders on books right now, says Wassom, who hit several winter outdoor and boat shows, targeting fishermen, law enforcement, guides and outfitters. California was an extremely strong market for us before, as well as Oregon and Alaska.

Sales will be factory-direct rather than through dealers, and Wassom says he's looking forward to restoring customer service.

When we were bigger I was spending my time managing, Wassom says. Now I'm getting back into training with customers and doing (boating) seminars for law enforcement.

.

Bruce Wassom, right, a former owner of Jetcraft, is back in the boat business. He and partner Tom Stady, left, have started up Rogue Jet Boatworks. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell