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Boat builder North River takes lead in state sales

North River Boats Inc. has floated to the lead of the state's all-aluminum boat flotilla.

The top producer in the Rogue Valley, Alumaweld, slipped slightly while other area boat manufacturers' results were mixed.

The 30-year-old Roseburg manufacturer topped its competition for the first time, selling 401 boats in 2003, according to Statistical Surveys Inc.'s list of all lengths of aluminum boats compiled from Oregon Marine Board data. North River was No. — in 2002 with 298 sales.

This is an exciting accomplishment for the company, says owner Brian Brush, a former Medford police officer and St. Mary's High School graduate. The continuous growth we are experiencing is starting to give us the results we have been aiming for.

North River reported a strong fourth quarter as it improved sales by 25.5 percent over 2002.

— Smoker Craft Inc., of New Paris, Ind., which has four factories nationwide including Stayton, fell from No. — to No. 2 as its Oregon sales fell from 436 in 2002 to 374 in 2003.

Smoker Craft, one of the country's top sellers, ran afoul of Attorney General Hardy Myers' office last year. After one of its boats sold as a new 2002 model was later learned to be a 1999 model that had been recalled under warranty.

Alumaweld boats, built on Rogue River Drive between Shady Cove and Sams Valley, slipped from No. 2 in 2002 to No. 3. Alumaweld sold 366 boats in 2002 and 341 in 2003.

Clarkston, Wash.-based Thunder Jet Boats was No. 4, with 173 sales and Hewes-craft was No. 5 at 161 boats sold in 2003.

At No. 6 with 141 boats sold was Harbercraft of Canada, up from 62 in 2002 when the company absorbed Vilas Road boatmaker Jetcraft and closed the local production line, idling 50 Rogue Valley workers. The Jetcraft name, which drew 74 sales in 2002, was assimilated in 2003.

Willie Boats, built along the boat-building corridor along Highway 62 between Medford and White City, fell to No. 7 from No. 4. In 2002, 140 Willie Boats were sold; last year the company sold 133.

Fish Rite Boats weighed in No. 10 on the 2003 list with 70 sales, up four spots from 2002 when it sold 48. Boice Jet Custom Boats zoomed from No. 27 ' 24 sold in 2002 ' to No. 11 after selling 60 in 2003. Both companies are near Highway 62.

Boulton Powerboats in White City moved up to No. 15 from No. 20, increasing sales to 48 from 36.

Rogue Marine of Grants Pass improved to No. 20 from No. 24, upping sales to 34 from 32. River Wild, also of Grants Pass, moved up to No. 21 from No. 23, despite selling 29, three fewer boats than in 2002.

North River will begin building boats in a second Roseburg-area location this spring. The year Brush bought the company in 1997, it sold 41 boats. The next year, the company more than doubled its sales to 100 and nearly hit 200 in 1999.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail