Made in the Panhandle: Full Speed Ahead - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Made in the Panhandle: Full Speed Ahead

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Panama City, Fla. -

For some of the world's greatest secret agents, the goal is to go undetected. "If you see one of our boats, you'll know it immediately."

That's the way Kruis Retherford likes it, she's one of the masterminds behind this speed boat. 

"My father used to race boats, so I was always drawn to it and had an opportunity to get into the boat business." Glasstream President, Kruis Retherford says.

Retherford developed the affordable dream with her partner and CEO A.L. Kirkland.  "I started Glasstream with 200 bucks in 1979." Kirkland says.

Since then, the team has constantly looked for ways to reinvent themselves; boats designed 5 years ago are already outdated.  With 30 employees, Glasstream builds their boats from scratch, "the best part of our boat is usually the part you don't see." Kirkland says.

In the 80's the company grew to be the largest independent boat manufacturer in the country and netted approximately $117 million. After a 16 year hiatus from the business, Glasstream returned to Panama City in 1996.

While the economy was declining nationwide, work was doubling. In fact, they need a bigger facility to meet the demands of their customers. "We need to continue on that path, the market share is available now." Retherford says.

In order to expand, Retherford says they need skilled workers, a workforce she says doesn't exist here and Bay County Economic Development Alliance Executive Director, Neal Wade says he's competing against other states.

"Having worked in Alabama, in economic development, I know that we had the incentive dollars. Mississippi and Georgia and others have dollars to put out or did have. But I think Florida is more competitive from an incentive stand point."

"To get away from the beach is going to be a tough deal for me, but it's something we're going to have to take a tough look at." Retherford adds.

Just as Glasstream thrives off attention, so does the Panhandle and if they left it would certainly create waves. Like their boat's, Glasstream's departure wouldn't go undetected.

Even though Glasstream is an existing company, if they expand, add employees and/or move to certain locations within Bay County they could get economic incentives from the EDA and the state.