Iconic Marine Group shows benefits of working in manufacturing

Published 2:47 pm Friday, October 7, 2022

National Manufacturing Day is Friday, Oct. 7. The day highlights the importance of manufacturing to a community. On Oct. 3, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed this week as North Carolina Manufacturing Week. 

North Carolina is the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeast and the ninth largest in the United States. There are 468,500 manufacturing employees representing 12% of the state’s total workforce, according to the governor’s office. North Carolina, in 2021, exported more than $31 billion in manufactured goods and is led by pharmaceutical products, chemicals and aerospace products. 

At home in Beaufort County, Iconic Marine Group Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Harris wants people to know the benefits of working in manufacturing. Iconic Marine Group oversees the production of Fountain Powerboats, Donzi Marine and Baja Marine. Fountain Powerboats, founded by Reggie Fountain, moved to Washington from Florida in 1980 and has remained here since. They have inhabited the same facility since 1983. In 2016, Iconic Marine Group purchased Fountain Powerboats. 

Iconic Marine Group employs approximately 300 people in Beaufort County. In the last four weeks, they acquired Nautic Star in Amory, Mississippi, which has 250 employees. They’ve earned $50 million in sales. 

“It’s satisfying to see people take pride in building a quality piece,” Harris said about Iconic’s employees. Boats produced by Iconic are mostly handmade which is unlike other boat companies who purchase materials to build the boats. Iconic does its own upholstery, they weld frames and hardware, they do their own fiberglass, plexiglass coating and painting as well as their own molding which creates a self-sufficient business. 

In talking about boat manufacturing programs at high school and community college levels, Harris said it’s “invaluable” to have students introduced to required skill sets to manufacture a product where craftsmanship is necessary. Meaning, the fruits of manual labor bear work a person can be proud of at the end of the day.

Harris said Iconic Marine Groups wholeheartedly supports boat manufacturing programs like the ones at Washington High School and Beaufort Community College. The sooner a person can learn boat building skills, the sooner they can enter the workforce and make a wage. Harris said Iconic is always looking to hire. He said there are employees who worked in manufacturing who have later worked in the office as a sales associate. 

One of the misconceptions about working in manufacturing is that it is a difficult job that does not pay well. Harris said that is not true, because some of the better paying jobs with Iconic here in Beaufort County are in the manufacturing department. 

A non-skilled, entry level job at Iconic pays between $12-$15 per hour depending on the job, but it increases quickly in a matter of months, Harris said. Adding that a person can earn more as they develop more skills. People without skills can join the apprenticeship program at Iconic and receive training while being paid. As they graduate to the next steps, their pay increases. 

He said the perception people have is that they will be stuck doing a manual labor job for the rest of their lives with little pay. He added that if he believed that misconception when he started working at Fountain Powerboats in 1983 in the manufacturing department then he would not be chief operating officer today.