This boat business’ products are sold all over the world. Now they’re moving to


MATTAPOISETT — Their boat stands are sold around the world, and with an expansion plan in motion, Peter and Alex Kavanaugh are gearing up for a move from Mattapoisett to Dartmouth.

The father and son plan to add jobs at Brownell Boat Stands & Equipment, their steel fabrication company, as they solidify their manufacturing base in the state.

Brownell Boat Stands was recently awarded a matching $250,000 grant from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Accelerate Program, which is managed by the Center for Advanced Manufacturing at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a public economic development agency.

The grant covers capital purchases, with most of the $250,000 going toward the cost of their new building in Dartmouth, as well as a new coding system. Kavanaugh said it will help free up cash and take some of the burden off so the company can follow through on its future plans.

“It helps us allocate our resources a bit more efficiently and make sure going into this new building we can do just about everything we want in terms of layout and new equipment,” he said. “With this new building, there will be other capital items we’ll need to purchase, including a new finishing system, and we’ll probably be investing in a bit more automation down the line,” he said.

The Kavanaughs learned about the grant through their partnership with the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a collaboration of government, business and academic partners focused on helping manufacturers meet the challenges of competing in an ever-changing economy.

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Boat storage innovation started in the 1950s

In the 1950s, local boatyard owner and boat builder David “Fred” Brownell created a couple of different ways of moving and storing boats. The conventional method had been to drag boats out of the water, sit them in a boatyard and hammer in some timbers to keep them upright.

After a year or two, he would have to throw the lumber away and decided there had to be a better way using a tool that would be reusable, adjustable and last a long time. He invented the boat stand, which is similar to what they are still making today.

Brownell’s daughter, Linda, took over the business in the 1990s, and in 2009, Peter Kavanaugh bought the company, adding some employees and keeping many of the existing employees. Alex joined him as a partner in the business six years ago.

The decision to diversify resulted in the manufacturing of different products for storing and moving boats including dollies to move boats around, different ways of storing boats for different purposes and a number of systems for lifting boats off trailers so they can work on them.

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Brownell Boat Stands & Equipment expansion

“We’ve expanded to a few different affiliated product lines and grown the business significantly over the 13 and a half years,” Alex said. “The bulk of our business is in North America but we also export to the Caribbean, Northern Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and to a lesser extent the Mediterranean, Asia, Central America and the Middle East.”

They have a year-round staff of about 20 mostly local employees, and everything is made in Mattapoisett. That will change soon, however. They are in the process of designing a new facility in Dartmouth. The initial timeline calls for the move to be finalized the first quarter of 2024. With the move, they anticipate up to 22 new hires.

Kavanaugh said the new building will provide greater efficiency in a larger, more modern space with an open floor plan so they can design it to fit their plans for continuing to grow the businesses locally for years to come.

They plan on adding one or two new hires to operate the coding system along with other new employees as they expand their production facility and generally grow the company. They are looking at expanding into a couple of new markets in the marine industry.

He said they are looking at their capabilities in relation to the wind industry because they believe there are opportunities for getting involved in it, but this will require some navigating to determine where they would fit in as part of the local supply chain.

The production of new boats and a strong market for boat sales has figured into their decision to expand the business that maintains a controlling market share in the boat stand industry. It’s a busy time of the year with boats going into storage this fall.

“It has been a good couple of years for us, and that’s triggered us to make the move and find ourselves a new long-term home,” he said.

Standard-Times staff writer Kathryn Gallerani can be reached at kgallerani@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kgallreporter. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.



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