Prince Edward Island’s oldest producer of fibreglass fishing boats is shifting its focus to another industry.
Gordon Campbell and his son Jay own Provincial Boat and Marine Ltd. in Kensington. They say since fewer fishermen are buying boats, it's time to diversify the business. They have decided to start manufacturing oil tanks for home heating.
Campbell said it's a more reliable industry, and the market is looking for their expertise.
“It was hard, we were used to being busy for quite a number of years and you never really imagined it was going to slow down the way it did,” he said.
Low lobster prices and a saturated market mean fewer fishermen are buying boats. Also, fewer Americans are buying Canadian products because of fluctuations in the dollar.
Campbell said things got bad for the company in 2009.
“We’ve had to downsize of course, laid off all our staff at one time and then just gradually started bringing them back. We’ve lost a lot of our good employees that we’ve had for years,” he said.
Sales have never quite bounced back.
“We started looking at other things we could do, and one of those was fibreglass home heating oil tanks,” said Jay Campbell.
The company has spent years getting everything in order. Now the Campbells are ready to start production.
In 2012, the provincial government banned the installation of metal oil tanks. The same fibreglass the Campbells use to make their boats is now in high demand in homes.
“Fibreglass is much safer and much better for the environment,” said Jay.
If all goes well, he said the company will need to hire at least 10 more staff.
“This should be a good opportunity for us to employ people, hire people, stick around in the community,” said Jay Campbell.
Campbell said the company will continue to build boats. He said the industry is bouncing back a bit but fishermen are still not buying boats like they once did. He hopes fibreglass oil tanks will be the company's future.