Drive through Lebanon, Missouri, and it’s impossible not to notice the highway is lined with boats. The city has quietly become the aluminum-boat-building capital of the world, and it shows no signs of stopping.
Ranger Boats recently announced it’s moving all aluminum boat manufacturing to Lebanon in 2021. They will join a growing list of major boat brands that have chosen Lebanon as their manufacturing hub, including Landau Boats, Lowe Boats, G3 Boats and Tracker Marine.
“Lebanon is centrally located in the United States making it the perfect fit for getting materials in, and of course shipping them back out,” said Aaron Waterman, Marketing Services Manager for G3.
With a boat-building history dating back to the 1960’s, Lebanon also has a large, knowledgeable workforce for this industry. Nestled between Lake of the Ozarks and Branson’s Table Rock, Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals lakes, it’s fair to say a huge portion of the boats built in Lebanon are launched in lakes not too far away.
The aluminum boat-building plants have a powerful impact on Lebanon’s economy. Darrell Pollock, the Executive Director of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce, estimates the manufacturers employ more than 2,500 people in the area.
“What we’ve had is a knowledge of how to build those boats and how to have a workforce that became exceptional in doing that,” said Pollock. “Local companies were being bought by nation-wide corporations, and they looked and saw that this was a good place to continue.”
Pollock says he thinks Lebanon is blessed by the industry flourishing there, and says it is a source of pride for residents. The benefits go beyond stimulating the economy, with workers volunteering, serving on clubs and the occasional business donation.
“Not only do they provide jobs for our community,” said Pollock. “They are also good community citizens as well.”
In recent years, Lebanon has been producing approximately 50,000 boats annually, according to Brian Thompson, President and CEO of Lebanon Regional Economic Development Inc. That number will surely grow as Ranger joins the fleet of aluminum-boat-builders in Lebanon.