Marine firm sailing to Knox
A yacht-maker based in the United Kingdom is entering the North American market with a presence in East Tennessee.
AVA International, which makes luxury 16- to 22-meter Sedan Bridge Motor Yachts, is establishing AVA USA corporate offices in Knoxville. The London-based company, with manufacturing operations in Taiwan, is currently producing about a half-dozen boats per year.
AVA has initiated discussions with potential dealers and will launch the AVA brand at the upcoming Miami Boat Show, according to general manager Brad Peer. The company is planning to reveal its latest "pocket mega-yachts" in the fall, he said.
Peer said he will be responsible for establishing domestic production as well as North American and European sales. Peer has a background in marine sales and manufacturing, having worked with Meridian Yachts as regional sales manager before taking over responsibility for production. He has also worked as sales manager for Lake Union Sea Ray in Seattle.
Currently, plans are to hire five to 10 local employees. He said Knoxville was chosen as the headquarters for several reasons. "For one thing, my family lives here," he said.
Other important reasons for locating in East Tennessee include the access to skilled labor and access to the sea via a trip down the Tennessee and the Mississippi rivers to the Gulf of Mexico.
"Our customer base is global. We see opportunity in Europe, Florida, Montreal and the Northeast," he said.
The AVA USA product line will include two models described as 50-foot and 72-foot with features like large open bridge areas and skylights that mirror those available on the largest, most expensive yachts, he said.
Peer acknowledged that the market for mega-yachts, even small ones, is not as strong as it was a few years ago. As the economy improves, he said, he expects the market will include retiring baby boomers who want to move up to the 50-foot and larger boats, he said.
According to Hugh Rayner, editor of the Motor Yachts Review of the Berthon Yacht Market Report 2012, the hangover from the economy is still challenging the motor yacht market.
"Buyers and sellers in our market continue to be financially stable, and thankfully distressed sales are now relatively uncommon. However, and perhaps not surprisingly, this stability is directly linked to a particularly cautious human nature," Rayner said.
He predicted that could lead to a difficult market in the coming year, "with activity levels remaining quite low unless economic activity resurges."
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel