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Carmen Macdonald

A passion for fishing and hunting grew into a career that's included Alaskan guide, media sales, writer and the politics of outdoor recreation. My company, Vaunt Marketing, represents industry-leading brands in the US and Canadian markets.

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February 05, 2013

North River Boats, Back On The Throttle

by Carmen Macdonald

You just might notice a few more North River Boats on the show floor this week at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show at the Portland Expo Center.

At January's Portland Boat Show, I couldn't help but notice a reinvigorated selection of North River hulls at Clemen's Marine.

The brand seemed to all but disappear when past owner Brian Brush led the company to financial ruin and then sealed his own path to hell by committing murder.

As Brush stood trial and awaited his impending life sentence, talk of the company was overshadowed by the sadness for the life Brush took and it was probably assumed that the company, and all of its' employees, had faded away.

That's certainly what I would have expected.

Surprisingly, however, the company never went anywhere. Downsized for sure. Owned by the banks and massively restricted by loss of available credit, absolutely. Unable to floor boats with retailers and without a motor company distribution deal, yep. But not gone.

Rather than going away, North River was held together by commercial contracts that kept a steady flow of craft moving through the production facility east of Roseburg. For the remaining employees, it was a stressful period. Under bank ownership, the company could have been shut down on any given day.

Buoyed by the strength of design, materials and construction quality that have always defined North River, the company pressed on. Contracts continued to come, and even some recreational boat dealers paid cash for boats so they could offer the North River product line to their customers.

Clean lines, beautiful fit and finish and excellent handling qualities positioned North River as the hard-core riverboat with the finer detail points that allowed them to cross over into the family boat market.

For three and a half years, North River Boats operated day-to-day-to-day. On August 15, 2012, however, purchase of the company's assets was finalized by Oregon-based NW Bend Boats. The company does business as North River Boats. The investment firm has no intention of moving the brand's production facilities from Roseburg, Oregon.

Over the last five months, North River has continued to book orders from its recreational, commercial and government customers.

Brent Hutchings, new North River CEO said, "There's no longer the burden of receivership. Thanks to the efforts of North River's outstanding employees and the exceptional financial strength of the new parent company, the company has a bright future."

Fans of North River Boats will be excited about what has not changed within the company. Of 75 employees, a vast percentage have been with the company longer than 10 years. Jay, Mike, Gary, Jordan… all the familiar names are there.

Over 2 years ago I had the opportunity to speak with Jay Conn, North River General Manager. He mentioned that at the time when the company seemed to be falling apart, he made a commitment to the crew that if they stuck it out, he'd stand by them and be the guy to turn the lights out.

Fans of the Seahawk, Scout, Commander and Trapper will certainly be happy that switch was never flipped.

Comments (4)

tagnbagem wrote 4 years ago

I for one, am very pleased the company is still in business and doing well, I own my third North River and hopefully can own a offshore model. Looking forward to seeing something new at the sportsman show. Keep it rolling. Ron Sands (aka tagnbagem )

garyk wrote 4 years ago

There's a lot of value in that company. Glad to see NW Bend Boats has stepped in to bring the company out of receivership, (and hopefully to renewed strength).

backley wrote 4 years ago

North River makes a beautiful boat and now we can be assured that we will see this brand for many years to come.

Nikkisegura wrote 4 years ago

My issues with north river lies solely in their hull design and current configurations on how they build their outboard hulls. The early boats were better performing and of a better design. It seems the previous CEO was very successful at killing the pre2000 reputation of a highly refined world class product that performed as well as it looked. To cater to the likes of cheap stripped hulls that weighed more than their competition and didn't perform as the older lines once did. If the company as a new entity changed that trend I'd love to watch the rebirth of their brand. However I fear the current trend to poorly performing underpowered fishing vessels will continue because nobody seems to be bothered that to run one your at wide open throttle all the time. The show showed promise that power was there. But. The overall hull and model still has several flaws that were integrated with the last CEO and management focus

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