Alumacraft Boat Co. celebrated 75 years in business and said thank you to employees during an event Saturday at the St. Peter facility.

“We’ve been waiting and working through COVID to be able to celebrate,” said Scott Wilkings, site director of Alumacraft.

The company’s 230 employees and their families enjoyed a variety of games, food and events on the grounds of the plant.

“We had 15 weeks of shutdown over the course of last year. Our employees have sacrificed so much to be part of the team and get thorough these last 16 months of COVID,” Wilkings said. “We’ve been having an employee appreciation week culminating with this open house and celebrating 75 years.”

Isaac Langford took family members through a tour of the boat plant, pointing out the process of turning sheet aluminum into boats.

“I’ve been here a year. I worked on the floor until an engineering job open up in the office. It’s good group of people here,” said Langford, who graduated from Minnesota State University with degrees in auto tech engineering and manufacturing technology.

“We take problems and find solutions to them,” he said of the engineers. “Whether it’s something that doesn’t fit right or whatever the problem is, we solve it.”

Wilkings said the company is doing well and saw a big boost in demand during the pandemic.

“Business is extremely strong. We have good orders, the supply chain has been able to supply us. It’s just been a case of making enough boats at our facility. We have quite a few backorders,” he said.

“The market was very strong even during the pandemic when people were looking for things to do at home.”

Wilkings said parent-company BRP has also seen strong demand for its many brands.

He said the Alumacraft Competitor series of boats are hot sellers. The company just introduced the Competitor FSX, which is a crossover boat for fishing and watersports.

Like virtually all businesses, a shortage of qualified workers has been an issue for Alumacraft.

“It’s been a challenge. We’ve been hiring people non-stop for over a year.”

Rich history

Alumacraft grew from the Flour City Ornamental Iron Company, started by a German-born blacksmith in Minneapolis in the late 1800s.

After WWII there was an excess of leftover metal and skilled laborers, which spurred the iron company to start Alumacraft in 1946.

Alumacraft moved its headquarters and production facility to St. Peter in 1970 and is one of the oldest and largest boat manufacturers.

In 2018 BRP, a Canadian company that makes Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo jet skis, Evinrude boat motors and a variety of power sports equipment purchased Alumacraft.

It was the first foray into the boat manufacturing business for BRP, based in Valcourt, Quebec.

BRP said Alumacraft had revenue of about $100 million in 2017. At the time, BRP had revenue of about $4 billion.

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