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Old 10-07-2011, 10:29 AM   #1
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Default FYI Diamondback & airboats

He is the head of a thriving company that builds 200 airboats and 30,000 handguns a year, but Bobby Fleckinger’s welding helmet still rests on his desk, beside his computer.

When he started Diamondback Airboats in Cocoa in 1989, the then-19-year-old Fleckinger did all the welding.

Now 42, he’s taken on larger tasks, like fighting — and winning — a battle for business with a Chinese competitor. And he plans to win more manufacturing business from overseas companies.

But when his crew needs help turning sheets of aluminum into airboats that can cost as much as $70,000, Fleckinger is ready.

“I would probably stay out there and weld,” Fleckinger said. “It’s really peaceful to put your earplugs in and weld all day.”

But there are more pressing tasks at Diamondback, which Fleckinger started with financial and business help from his parents, Fran and Lawrence Fleckinger. Namely, planning a 12,000-square-foot building to add to the 26,000 square feet of construction space and buying milling machines to expand his line of handguns.

That will generate 30 to 40 jobs, adding to Diamondback’s staff of 100.

The company’s main products are airboats, aluminum towers for wakeboard boats and, starting about four years ago, two models of handguns. The airboats are built in the main building in an assembly line. The handguns are milled, assembled and tested in a separate facility. And the wakeboards are shaped from aluminum tubing by a computerized pipe bender and welded to completion in a shop that extends from the airboat assembly building.

Fleckinger, an avid hunter and shooting enthusiast, decided to design and build a line of handguns because he believed he could sell weapons to many of his airboat customers.

“How many people own an airboat and don’t have a gun?” he said.

Fleckinger’s future plans? Just a modest list: Sell 30 percent more airboats, expand the line of handguns, and add a line of machined marine accessories that are now commonly made in China.

“I’m into building and challenges,” he said. “We’d build aluminum toilets, if we had a bid for it.”


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Old 10-07-2011, 02:46 PM   #2
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Great story. Perfect example of American ingenuity. As soon as we can flush the toilet in Washington and make life easier for the small business owner maybe there will be more stories like this again.
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