After struggling in the past, the upcoming expansion of a Bolivar manufacturing business promises to bring several hundred new jobs and solidify its future in the community.
According to a news release, Bass Pro Shops and White River Marine Group has plans to “significantly” expand the Tracker Boats plant in Bolivar, “doubling the square footage of its manufacturing capabilities and adding 300 new manufacturing jobs to the region.”
The release said the new 210,000-square-foot facility will be in Bolivar, 4 miles from the current plant’s location on South Killingsworth Avenue.
Gail Noggle, executive director of Polk County’s Economic Development Alliance, told the BH-FP the new Tracker location will be in the former Teters Floral Products warehouse behind Smith’s Restaurant near Mo. 13 and Rt. U.
The expansion will include an update to the existing warehouse and the construction of a new building, the release said. The company purchased and will convert an existing warehouse into a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant, as well as construct a new adjacent building.
Onsite production is set to begin next spring with the new construction completed by summer, the release said.
Noggle said the expansion is positive news for the community. She said it’s important to remember 80% of new job creation comes from existing businesses.
“Bolivar and Polk County are fortunate to have such a dynamic organization investing in our community,” Noggle said. “It’s all about jobs that pay a livable wage — that sustains a community."
Mayor Chris Warwick echoed Noggle’s thoughts, expressing his excitement about the expansion.
“The City of Bolivar is thrilled that Tracker is expanding again here in Bolivar and Polk County,” he told the BH-FP.
He said the expansion will help the community in numerous ways.
“One of those is job creation, which gives our workforce opportunities for good paying jobs,” Warwick said. “These types of jobs are not possible without partnerships within and out of the community.”
Warwick credited Noggle and the county’s Economic Development Alliance, as well as other community partners, for their continued work to search and scout for any available opportunities. He also said Noggle is active in regional and state economic development.
“Without a good team, this doesn’t happen,” he said. “Bolivar will continue its growth as long as we can stay active in bringing job creators into our area.”
The release said Tracker’s local expansion comes from the popularity of and demand for an expanded line of Sun Tracker Bass Buggy pontoon boat models, which “allow thousands of families to make memories on the water for the first time” thanks to the boats’ quality and affordability.
“Bolivar is home to some of the finest craftsmen and women in America, and we couldn’t be more excited to showcase their skills and craftsmanship by proudly building more boats right here in America’s heartland,” Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Boats founder Johnny Morris said in the release. “These incredible boats will bring smiles and years of happy memories to families across North America and 21 countries around the world.”
Bolivar’s Tracker plant first opened its doors in 1988.
After the company stopped manufacturing and closed the plant’s doors in January 2009 due to an economic downturn, it reopened in April 2018, promising to bring 130 new jobs to Bolivar, according to previous BH-FP coverage.
A year later, production manager Stephen Skopec told the BH-FP the Tracker plant exceeded expectations and had employed around 190 people.
Skopec previously said the plant produces five different models of pontoon boats, with 50% designed for fishing and the rest for entertaining. Skopec declined to comment on the number of boats produced each day.
Bolivar is a great location for the plant because it’s centrally located, Skopec said.
“We’re an hour from the Clinton plant, an hour from the Lebanon plant, and 45 minutes from corporate,” he said.
Also, because Polk County is a Qualified Advanced Enterprise Zone, the city was able to give Bass Pro a property tax abatement for 10 years, Noggle previously told the BH-FP. She said the company has also worked with the State of Missouri’s Department of Economic Development to obtain incentives.
The release said Sun Tracker pontoon boats were first introduced in 1983 and are owned by more families than any other brand.
“The National Marine Manufacturers Association has honored Sun Tracker Boats with Excellence in Customer Satisfaction awards for the last eight years,” the release said. “The NMMA’s Marine Industry Customer Satisfaction Index Awards recognize top-rated marine industry brands that actively measure customer satisfaction and pursue continuous improvement to better serve their customers.”