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Inside Iconic Marine Group With Jeff Harris

A longtime Fountain Powerboats man, marine industry veteran and accomplished offshore racer, Jeff Harris picked up the Iconic Marine Group chief operating officer reins in March for the late Joe Curran. His return to the Washington, N.C., facility—the headquarters for the Baja, Donzi and Fountain powerboat brands—was something of a homecoming, as Harris worked along Reggie Fountain, Jr., when he founded the company 40 years ago.

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Across the Baja, Donzi and Fountain lines, there are plenty of fireworks happening under the Iconic Marine Group roof (click image to enlarge). Photos courtesy/copyright Iconic Marine Group.

Since then, Harris has been running flat out—and loving it.

“There have been a few long days but it’s really fun being back here,” he said. “This really is an amazing place. It’s a 260,000-square-foot facility with its own easy boat ramp on the shores of the fantastic Pamlico River, which is perfect for testing our products. And we sea trial every single boat we build on the water, not in a ‘concrete swimming pool,’ before it leaves the plant.

“There are generations of people working here,” he continued. “We have people working here now whose parents worked here. They grew up in the business. It’s special.”

For Harris and the 240-employee Iconic Marine Group team, which includes an in-house engineering department, much of the focus during the past four months has been refining manufacturing processes and “through-put” within the company’s various product lines. To that end, he said, they are keeping those production lines—Baja, Donzi and Fountain—separate as they move through the factory.

Harris and the rest of the Iconic Marine Group management team also have turned to employees for their input. They reintroduced one system, for example, where employees can “file tickets” with suggestions for build-process improvements. Those suggestions are then reviewed by the company’s engineering team and are implemented if approved.

Check out the slideshow above for more behind-the-scenes image from inside the Iconic Marine Group facility.

“We make a big deal about that,” said Harris. “We’re taking a team approach. It gives us a mountain of data from our employees.

“Almost everything we do here is hand-labor,” he continued. “We have automated a few processes, but for the most part everything is done by hand, especially compared to other industries. We still weld our own T-tops. We fabricate all kinds of other items, and we also buy parts and modify them to our standards. All of the tooling for new models is done in house. Our dealer network is going great and still growing, and we are about to have our first dealer meeting in October.”

Harris said that Iconic Marine Group owner Fred Ross is dedicated not just to retooling existing models across all products lines but introducing new models. To that end, they have created a large separate development and tooling station within the facility.

Though he declined to be specific, Harris said new center console and sportboat models are coming. Some, like the existing Donzi Iconic 44 catamaran, will incorporate carbon fiber and Kevlar and will be constructed using vacuum infusion. Others will be hand-laid with traditional materials including multi-directional fiberglass and vinylester resin.

“We have some serious model-line expansion plans on horizon, both on the drawing board and in the tooling room,” said Harris. “In part because of the incredible facility we have here—there’s really nothing like it in the marine industry—Fred Ross really has the vision and desire to play in every segment of the marine market. In the next two years, we are going to do what nobody else is doing on a production scale.”

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Said Harris, “Almost everything we do here is hand-labor.”

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