Written by Justine McGuire – MLive
MUSKEGON, MI – The largest kayak manufacturer in the world is moving its headquarters downtown Muskegon with the promise of $9.2 million in investment and 153 new jobs.
KL Outdoor/GSC is the manufacturer of Sun Dolphin and Future Beach kayaks and other recreational products. It will be the first corporation to locate its headquarters downtown Muskegon since 2000.
Muskegon was chosen for the headquarters over Montreal, Quebec, and another location in the southern United States, said KL Outdoor CEO Chuck Smith, during a press conference on Friday, Aug. 25.
“In my opinion, it was never an option to move out of Muskegon,” Smith said.
Muskegon provides a cultural fit with the overall company, and opportunity for growth, he said.
The company’s new global headquarters will be in the black, pyramid-shaped building on the shore of Muskegon Lake that was once the home of SPX Corporation. KLO/GSC is leasing the entire second floor at 700 Terrace Point Drive.
Demolition and build-out of the offices will begin next week, and the company plans to move in by Thanksgiving, Smith said.
The $9.2 million in investment and 153 new jobs should come during the next two to three years. The jobs will be both white and blue collar in nature, Smith said.
The headquarters will be occupied by 45-50 employees, according to a news release. The highly-skilled engineering staff will continue to work at the production facility on Sherman Boulevard in Muskegon.
The company is the result of a merger of the Muskegon-based KL Outdoor and Montreal, Quebec-based GSC Technologies, which occurred in April. Both companies were owned by Boca Raton-based New Water Capital, and the merged corporation is also owned by the investment firm.
Smith expects the April merger to be the first of many similar announcements.
Self-proclaimed “avid kayaker” Gov. Rick Snyder was in attendance on Friday. KLO/GSC gifted him a green and gray Third Coast Huron 120 kayak with his name on it.
“Michigan is the state for this place,” Snyder said, adding that “four out of the five Great Lakes prefer Michigan.”
Michigan also has 11,000 lakes, and is “the trail state,” including land and water trails, making it the perfect place for the company’s headquarters, he said.
“I love the phrase ‘Watch Us Go’ because you’re going on a very exciting path, and you should be proud,” Snyder said of Muskegon. “The place you’re investing in today is going to be a greater and greater place, not just in terms of a place to have a business, but a place to live, work and play.”
The Michigan Strategic Fund will support the KLO/GSC expansion in Muskegon with a $765,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant, according to a news release.
KL Outdoor has been based in Muskegon since 1989. It was founded in 1982. As of April, the company employed about 300 people, and another 200 part-timers during busy months from January-July.
KLO/GSC’s primary manufacturing facility is in Muskegon with some warehousing in nearby Norton Shores. There’s also some warehousing and manufacturing in Montreal.
In addition to kayaks, the company also manufactures other recreational products, such as pedal boats, paddleboards, canoes, hunting blinds and playground equipment.
Brothers Dave, Dan, Tom and Ken Harris were all in attendance Friday. Their father founded KL Outdoor, and they remain involved in the growing corporation.
Dave Harris, KL Outdoor vice president, addressed the Muskegon City Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 22. It has grown “significantly” since it moved to Muskegon, he said.
The commission approved an Industrial Development District on Tuesday that will allow KLO to apply for Industrial Facilities Tax Abatements within six months of the district’s establishment on Aug. 22.
Commissioner Ken Johnson noted that it is “fitting” to have offices of the world’s largest kayak manufacturer on the water.
The city of Muskegon has offered – but not voted on – a 12-year tax abatement valued at $69,000, and West Michigan Works! has offered hiring and training assistance, according to a news release.Go Back to News & Media