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Boat builders welcome in Oak Harbor | Editorial
Some rare economic good news surfaced last week with the announcement that Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland is considering expanding to Oak Harbor, with a new facility to be built at the Navy’s Seaplane Base.
The company, founded in the ‘60s, has long been one of South Whidbey’s best and most dependable private employers. The boat building business has its ups and downs but Nichols Brothers has survived them all, even if that meant selling the company to a larger firm as was done a couple of years ago. The new owners, to their credit, agree with Nichols Brothers’ dedication to Whidbey Island and its desire to keep its business local, despite efforts by other areas to lure them away.
When the possible expansion to Oak Harbor was announced, it soon became clear that there is solid support for the plan from the city, the chamber of commerce, the Island County Economic Development Council and the all-important Navy. The Navy would consider leasing its unneeded land to a private company. The complex process might end with competitive bid, but it’s doubtful anyone would try to pull the rug out from under Nichols Brothers.
Details of the expansion are at this point scant, and of course there are environment and archeological concerns that have to be addressed. We certainly don’t want to be surprised if more bones are dug up in Oak Harbor. But the project would create approximately 100 badly-needed private sector jobs to Oak Harbor while boosting the competitive stance of one of the island’s most important companies.
Nichols Brothers has always supported its community by providing good jobs with a good wage for skilled workers and they run a clean operation in Freeland. Additionally, they’ve always been there when a community project needs some assistance and to help youth groups and others achieve their dreams. It’s still a local company at heart, and it’s one that Oak Harbor should welcome with open arms.