By Ralph Echtinaw
Pontoon boats have been the fastest growing segment of the boating industry over the last 10 years, and Apex Marine, located in the St. Louis industrial park, is reaping the benefits.
Originally known as Mellinger Boats, the company was sold in 2003 to Mark Dupuie, who changed the name and relocated to the industrial park in 2005. Since then Apex Marine has expanded four times. The latest is a $320,000, 6,000-square-foot space that will house $260,000 worth of powder coating equipment that will make pontoons more versatile and colorful. It brings the total square footage of Apex to 114,000.
Dupuie expects to hire ten people on account of the expansion, brining his total number of employees to 160.
A Central Michigan University graduate, Dupuie, 59, of Riverdale, worked for Playbuoy (now Avalon & Tahoe of Alma) in accounting, finance and sales before leaving to buy his own company.
Another expansion might be in the future for Apex, as Dupuie recently acquired Polar Kraft of Syracuse, Indiana, and may move production to the St. Louis facility. Polar Kraft makes 600 fishing boats a year and has 30 employees, Dupuie said.
Dupuie was at the city council meeting Tuesday to see a tax break on the addition approved unanimously. Property taxes on the $320,000 addition will be reduced by 50 percent for the next 12 years..
Although no sitting council member questioned the tax break, Councilman-elect Roger Collison, who will officially assume the position next month, took issue with it.
“With the tax assessment we have on residents would it be prudent to give tax exemptions to businesses during that time?” he said. “Nobody is more excited than me to have business and jobs in the city. I’m not trying to be negative about that. I probably wouldn’t even question it at all had there not been a tax assessment on residents. I guess I’m just saying, Can we afford it? Can we afford that exemption?”
Mayor Pro-tem Melissa Allen responded to Collison: “It is a tradeoff of bringing employment here. (Apex Marine) is a business that’s growing, and we want to encourage them to stay here. They’re still paying some tax revenue on their addition. And it’s just an overall positive. It’s part of our ability to encourage them and to be thankful that they’re here and doing a good job.”