By MARTHA STOELTING
A staple of the Syracuse economy for 75 years
Syracuse and surrounding communities were shocked to learn Rinker would be closing in June. It has been a mainstay of local manufacturing since 1945.
Monday, April 13, Polaris Inc. announced it has made the strategic decision to focus its marine investments and growth efforts on its flagship boating brands. As a result, Polaris will stop producing Rinker, Striper and Larson FX boat brands at its Syracuse plant, 300 W. Chicago St.
Several of the 120 local employees were terminated as of Monday, April 13, with the rest told it would be day to day if they had a job up until about June 17, according to one employee who wished to remain anonymous. It was also reported there was a back order list of boats to be produced so the news came as quite a shock. Some may have job opportunities in Elkhart.
“This decision was made after extensive consideration of every available alternative,” said Bob Mack, president of Global Adjacent Markets and Boats, and senior vice president of Corporate Development & Strategy, Polaris. “We were fully prepared to expand these brands and our presence within their respective segments of the marine industry. But today, considering market dynamics and the continued uncertainty around the sustained impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided not to move forward with investing the necessary resources to maintain and grow Rinker, Striper and Larson FX, and will discontinue production of those brands.”
The action entails closing the Syracuse facility which will result in the elimination of 120 jobs. Some of the employees impacted by the decision will have opportunities at Polaris Boats’ Elkhart campuses.
Paul Stoelting, president of the Syracuse Town Council commented, “This is a blow for a town of less than 3,000 residents and a surprise as we were not informed that this was happening until Monday, April 13, with the closing announcement. For 75 years Rinker Boats has been a major employer and factor in the local economy. At one time it employed almost 500 people. We certainly wish Polaris would have worked with the town to keep the business here. A reconsideration of the decision would be much appreciated.”
“We deeply regret the impact this will have on our employees, boat dealers, sales representatives, suppliers – and, of course, our Rinker, Striper and Larson FX customers,” Mack continued. “However, today’s decision will allow us to concentrate our investments on driving growth and innovation within Bennington, Godfrey and Hurricane and strengthening our leadership in those segments.”
Chamber Executive Director Renea Salyer shared, “The Syracuse – Wawasee Chamber of Commerce and its members are saddened by Monday’s news that Polaris Industries Inc. is closing its Syracuse boat manufacturing operations. The Rinker brand has been an important member of the Syracuse business community since 1945.
“The first concern of the Syracuse – Wawasee Chamber of Commerce is to assist in finding new opportunities for the approximately 120 highly skilled local employees affected by this announcement. Today, I attended a meeting via Zoom with Alan Tio and Danielle Rich of KEDCo, Barbara White, Lorna Shively, Krystal Levi, and Greg Vollmer of WorkOne, David Behr of IEDC, and Mike Noe, Syracuse Town Manager to formulate a coordinated plan.
“I have been in contact with Polaris’ local Human Resources official and have begun contacting area employers that need similarly skilled people. Additionally, I have arranged an introduction between Polaris officials and Barbara White, of Work One, who will lead the agency’s rapid response effort. Several members of the Syracuse – Wawasee Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and other Syracuse – Wawasee Chamber of Commerce members represent companies that can be possible employers of these skilled people. Additional plans are in discussion, which includes a local job fair to introduce the affected employees to other area employers.
“The Syracuse – Wawasee Chamber of Commerce is committing its resources to realize the best possible outcome for all affected by this announcement.”
Polaris will continue to provide customer service and parts support for Rinker, Larson FX and Striper boats and will honor the warranties of boats purchased from Polaris.
The company will continue to produce its Bennington, Godfrey, and Hurricane boat brands in its two campuses located in Elkhart.
Polaris purchased the Larson FX and Striper brands in 2019 and the Rinker brand as a part of its boat holdings acquisition in 2018. John Rinker founded the company in 1945 on the edge of Lake Wawasee, Indiana’s largest natural lake. It was one of the most successful independent boat builders in the country. He sold it in 2004 to a private equity firm and a group of investors. Kim Slocum was the general manager.
Rinker survived through the downturn of the national economy in 2008-09. Polaris is a huge international company with corporate offices in Sunnyvale, Calif., and presences in Minnesota and Switzerland. Its boat headquarters is in Elkhart.