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Lawson Boat and Motor helping to transform Chadakoin River

Every month I will be communicating with the public about all of the great things going on throughout Chautauqua County as they relate to economic development. This could include a discussion about specific projects of public interest that are underway or have been completed, where they are at, and if completed, how they are performing. It could also involve a discussion about initiatives being undertaken at various agencies or at the County level, including, but not limited to, the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency, the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth, Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Development, Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation, the Workforce Development Board, the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, educational institutions, or at any one of the many agencies whose mission makes them a critical partner in economic development across the County.

Lawson Boat and Motor

I recently spoke with the owner of Lawson Boat and Motor located at 365 Fluvanna Avenue on the border of City of Jamestown and Town of Ellicott. In 2017, Lawson assumed ownership of this seriously dilapidated property, sought and received financial assistance from the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA), and began the arduous process of bringing it back to life. And, oh boy, have they ever.

It is hard to miss the blue and white vertically striped buildings that adorn the property, all of which are very tastefully done.

Lawson’s services include a concierge boat service, which means they will come and get your boat, service/winterize it, store it for the winter season, and return it in the spring. They also do fiberglass boat repair, boat storage without the concierge service (temperature controlled and conventional), rental of water toys (kayaks, water bikes, and pontoon boats), and offer summer dockage. Lastly, they custom build pontoon boats and restore older fiberglass boats in a retro but modern style.

When I asked why the owner took on such a lofty effort, he stated that he has been in the business for more than 30 years, and has a sincere passion for boats. He saw an ailing business that needed to be brought back to life, and he thought it was something he could accomplish. He has customers from as far away as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Erie, not to mention many locals.

Since opening in earnest in 2018, Lawson has rehabilitated three buildings, and has built two more climate controlled buildings (which minimize mold and mildew). They have also purchased some specialized large boat handling equipment, cleaned up the property, and rehabilitated/rebuilt the old docks. In 2020, they also purchased an adjacent property from the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation, who acquired it and demolished the dilapidated building that was located there. The property has since been leveled and seeded, and is being eyed for future expansion.

While over $3 Million has been invested in the facility, the owner and his team are eager to continue their quest to build a world class facility. They would like to add more storage buildings, increase their service offerings, expand (double) their rental business, and continue to work with other stakeholders on making the Chadakoin River a premier place for people to visit and recreate. This includes a potential water taxi service that could connect Chautauqua Lake to downtown Jamestown.

Business has been good despite the pandemic. In fact, it has been in line with their pre-COVID projections. This is in part due to the huge uptick in use of the Chadakoin River for recreational purposes, and this trend is expected to continue. They were very busy all summer, especially on the weekends, and rentals of pleasure craft went even better than expected. He was sure to state that the natural beauty of the Chadakoin is an experience to behold, with exquisite birds, reptiles, and fish in abundance, and free of commercial development. It is beautiful!

The owner predicts that the Chadakoin River will play an even larger role in the revitalization of downtown Jamestown, and their mission is to create more docks and water toy rental inventory to draw a bigger customer base and help in this effort. Connection and access of people to water is key to many cities who are fortunate to have water resources, such as Jamestown.

The owner revealed to me that his greatest challenge was finding and retaining competent people who want to work, which is a common theme throughout the country.

Several people who are worthy of recognition for the early success of Lawson, include Rich Dixon from the CCIDA, Gina Paradis from the Land Bank, Greg Edwards from the Gebbie Foundation, Larry Scalise from the City of Jamestown, Dave Rowe from the Town of Ellicott, Assemblyman Andy Goodell, Congressman Tom Reed, and many others.

For more information regarding Lawson Boat and Motore, call 716-488-3805, or visit their website at: www.lawsonboatandmotor.com

The CCIDA feels privileged to have been part of this important initiative, and intends to continue its efforts to make Chautauqua County a better place to live, work, visit, and conduct business.

Mark Geise is Deputy County Executive for Economic Development and CCIDA CEO.

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