In 2005, Jim and Tracey Goettl purchased their first houseboat. Although hopes and dreams of something bigger than a 16 by 68 were often in their thoughts, this was the boat that started it all for them.
Jim came from a family with very strong engineering and manufacturing ties in both the mid-west and Arizona. At the time, he was actively involved in his own company in both designing and building high-end custom homes. Little did he know then, his skills and expertise would be brought to the houseboating industry just a few short years later.
Having used their smaller houseboat for one season, Jim set out to design a new houseboat for his family. The design included some high-end finishes not yet seen in houseboats at the time: granite tops, a 50-inch pull down plasma TV and a full galley on the second level, complete with dishwasher, sub-zero refrigerator and Wolf barbeque. At this point he took the design to Dave Taylor of Unlimited Houseboats in Page, Ariz. Taylor was the local dealer for the nation's largest houseboat manufacturer who at the time was based in Kentucky. This would be the beginning of a very unique and rewarding relationship between the two. The manufacturer set out to build the boat to Jim's design, and the Goettl family was thrilled with the result.
Once delivered to Lake Powell in southern Utah, people could not get enough of this innovative step forward. As a result of this attention, the houseboat manufacturer sold nine houseboats with the identical floorplan into the Lake Powell market that next year. The average price range of each of these boats was a million dollars. Despite the changing market and a looming bad economy, it was evident that people wanted high-end boats and they were willing to pay for them.
Innovation Breeds Innovation
In February of 2008, Jim was invited to be part of an advisory meeting with the Kentucky manufacturer to discuss more innovative ideas. Jim listened as others suggested that consumers were now looking for more yacht-like styling and design, while still retaining the houseboat feel. Given the success of Jim's design, and Taylor's successful sales of those same boats, it was suggested that things be taken a step further and that Jim begin designs for a whole new level of houseboats. These would be manufactured in Kentucky, but private labeled to market across the country.
Through this process it became apparent to Jim how underdeveloped houseboat manufacturing was and how new and current technology could be brought to the table.
On the flight back to Arizona, Jim sketched the profile for this new line of houseboats. The design was sleek and definitely very yacht-like, with a floorplan that was equally exciting. The line would be called Bravada Yachts.
Unfortunately, the manufacturer that would build the very first of this new line completed the boat just before being forced to shut down because of the poor economy.
The houseboat featured full aluminum side walls, sunken floors in the salon and stateroom, 8-foot tall ceilings, high-end finishes throughout, and a fourth-level heliport.
"The economy in Arizona took a hit, but people still wanted the boats," recalls Jim. "We had several people who had committed to buying a Bravada Yacht through Dave Taylor, and now everyone was asking, who is going to build our boat?"
Despite warnings from people-even family-that this wasn't the time or the industry to invest in, Jim moved forward and decided he would be the one to build these boats.
A big part of the economy in Phoenix is construction and property values had plummeted. This allowed a very unique opportunity to find the exact facility Jim believed they would need.
Additionally, Jim already owned a home building company so it made sense to simply change the name of that entity, and start building houseboats as part of that business. Compass North Development, luxury home builder, became Compass North Industries, luxury houseboat manufacturer.
Open For Business
Compass North Industries, moved into their 65,000 square-foot plant in December of 2009. After a quick setup, manufacturing officially began in January, a month later.
The plant is currently running at maximum capacity. The majority of boats being built today consist of three-level minimums with some boats even having four levels.
"The average price of these boats is at about the million dollar mark and still today, as more people see these types of boats, the more attention is given to us in building them," says Jim. "We currently have nine boats in the plant that will be delivered by mid-May, all to the Lake Powell market."
The greatest bulk is the GT and Limited Series, which are the manufacturer's upper-end models. The Lake Powell market being one of the nation's largest houseboating destinations and located only four hours away from Phoenix, was their initial focus. However, Bravada Yachts have since reached beyond that initial focus and are currently selling to multiple locations in the west like in northern California and throughout the country to lakes in Texas. And the houseboat manufacturer has even started marketing houseboats in Australia and China.
For Today's Market
Bravada Yachts thrives on building high-end boats and that's been the key to their early success.
"There is no need to try and chase the old cheese," says Jim. "There is no reason to go back to the old styles in houseboats because we feel it takes high-end products to work and sell in today's market."
Now into just its third year of manufacturing Bravada Yachts, the company continues to thrive despite the up and down economy.
"Last year we sold around 23 boats and are hoping to be at 40 plus boats annually by 2015," says Jim. "We are thankful for the relationship we have with Dave Taylor and his dealership Bravada Yacht Sales, Inc. in the Page/Lake Powell area. He believed in these boats from the beginning, and to this day is the only authorized factory dealer of Bravada Yachts."
A Family Affair
What began with a love of houseboating has become a passion that Jim's family carries. Jim's wife Tracey currently helps coordinate the Interiors of the boats. Their kids, Alexis and Steven, have each put in hours on the boats, especially during the first year of manufacturing. Alexis currently studies at Northern Arizona University in accounting, but plans to head back to Compass North Industries and the plant to work after graduation. Their son Steven, who is a senior in high school, also has the engineering skills in which his father has proven to be successful and will continue to work on these skills at NAU studying mechanical engineering.