(ROSEBURG and CENTRAL POINT, Ore.) — Two Oregon boat companies, North River Boats and Willie Boats, have joined forces under a new parent company, 44° North Marine, helmed by CEO Brent Hutchings.
North River, a premier builder of heavy-gauge aluminum boats, and Willie Boats, a builder of aluminum drift boats and powerboats, are an unprecedented combination, well-poised to serve commercial, recreational, first responder and military customers.
“We have known and respected the people and products of Willie Boats for decades and are thrilled to now combine these world-class teams,” said Brent Hutchings, CEO of 44° North Marine. “Willie Boats employees will join North River employees to become shareholders in the combined company through participation in its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).”
“It’s the dream team,” said Jim Bittle, longtime Willie Boats president and owner. “This deal assures the future of Willie Boats, and I could not be happier for my customers and employees.” As a consultant, Bittle will assist in the company’s transition.
Willie Boats will continue to manufacture drift boats, powerboats and raft frames at its location in Central Point, Ore. Demonstrating commitment to the Rogue Valley, Hutchings, who hails from Medford, signed a 20-year factory lease with three 10-year extensions. North River remains in Roseburg, Ore., where it currently employs 150 people.
– North River Boats