ROME — Five years after taking his electric-powered pontoon boat across New York on the Erie Canal, Montgomery Gisborne officially cut the ribbon on his new assembly plant Aug. 21 and launched the Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company in New York.
All told, it took about four years to pull everything together to make the Rome location work, Gisborne, a Canadian, says. That included finding a suitable location, obtaining funding, putting the finishing touches on prototypes, and lining up a network of suppliers.
A $300,000 incentive package from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) helped make the move possible, Gisborne says.
It was 2007 when Gisborne traveled the Erie Canal and met Rome’s former mayor James Brown, who immediately went to work to lure Gisborne to Rome. Gisborne was already looking for a U.S. location for his Ontario–based business, he says, because the majority of his potential market is in America.
Ultimately, Gisborne and his business partner Ray Hirani settled on a 6,000-square-foot space in a former warehouse at 530 Harbor Way in Rome.
While it took a little longer than expected to get things up and running in Rome, Gisborne says the delays seem to have worked in the company’s favor. Buying a boat falls into the “discretionary spending” category that many people cut back on during the recession, he says. But now, the industry seems to be picking up again just in time for Tamarack’s New York launch.
“Boat shows are starting to show some good, successful sales,” he says.
The recovering economy, coupled with Tamarack’s environmentally friendly boat, should lead to strong sales, Gisborne says. His first-year goal is to sell 100 boats, which retail for about $35,000 each.
Tamarack’s boat — the Loon — is a 22-foot-long, eight-passenger pontoon boat powered by a 1,000-watt solar array on the roof. The solar panels charge a battery large enough to give a range of more than 50 miles and a cruising speed of about eight knots (approximately 9.5 miles per hour), comparable to a typical gas-powered pontoon boat, Gisborne says.
However, comparing the Loon to a gas-powered boat is really like comparing apples to oranges, Gisborne notes. “It doesn’t really have a competitor,” he says. “There’s nothing out there like it.”
The Loon costs about $5,000 more than a similar-sized gas-powered boat, he says, but because it runs off the sun, the cost of operating the Loon is much lower than a gas-powered boat. “The break-even point is about five years,” he says of owning the Loon. “After that, it starts to pay you back.”
On top of that, Gisborne says he’s researching a “boat-to-grid” option that would allow Loon owners to sell power generated by the boat — say when it’s stored for the off season — back to the grid.
All of that, combined with a boat that’s environmentally friendly and super quiet to operate should appeal to a number of boaters out there, Gisborne contends.
The Loon has already generated interest and orders have been coming in, he says. Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Co. even received an order for 10 boats from a customer in Egypt.
Gisborne and Hirani have already hired two employees in Rome — a sales and marketing manager along with an office manager — and are looking to hire a production manger and assembly workers. By the end of Tamarack’s second year in New York, Gisborne expects to have 20 employees and expand his space to 10,000 square feet.
In the meantime, the company is working to get its name out there, bring the Loon to boat dealers for demonstrations, and attend boat shows along the East Coast. “We need to cover a lot of territory,” Gisborne says.
Along with the new Rome facility, Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Co. (www.tamarackelectricboats.com) also maintains a smaller facility in Ontario, but Gisborne predicts that site will eventually fold into the Rome location.
Tamarack’s move to Rome is part of a citywide revitalization that has seen more than $10 million in public and private funds invested in more than a dozen projects. The boat company is located at Rod Mill, which has seen $1.3 million in state funding to convert the old mill into modern industrial space.
Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Co. is also working with New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. and New York State Canals to explore possible partnerships.
The New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. is working with NYSERDA, the Canal Corp., and other state agencies to help Rome transform a polluted brownfield into a productive, eco-friendly environment for business and the public. A $660,000 Green Innovation Program grant will help create parking between Harborway and the Erie Canal, followed by a new boat launch constructed with a $225,000 grant from the Canal Corp.
Contact DeLore at email@example.com