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Formula Celebrates Vic Porter’s 50 Years in the Boating Industry
Victor B. Porter, chairman of Formula Boats, celebrated a milestone at the 2009 Annual Dealer Meeting in Fort Myers, Florida. The year 2008 marks 50 years in the boating industry for Vic. From small-town beginnings to larger-than-life reality — Vic’s story is truly the American dream.
Vic Porter’s life story begins in Decatur, Indiana, where he still resides. Early career ventures included mobile homes sales, real estate, and his own frozen food and ice cream business. An entrepreneur at heart, Vic felt the urge to start down a new path, and in 1958, that decision led him to his place in the marine industry today. Interesting developments followed each move Vic made throughout the past 50 years.
In 1958, Vic started a boat company, Duo, Inc., to manufacture fiberglass boats in his converted ice cream plant with three employees. His first model, the Volare, was a catamaran equipped with two outboard motors. In 1959, the hundredth boat was built, and the Hepcat, a trimaran, was introduced. Vic was president, and also doubled as sales manager. The following three years, Vic developed the Catfish and monohull runabout design X-Series and F-Series boats. By 1962, Duo Inc. was booming. Vic now had 30 employees who built 20 boats per week. Business continued to expand in a new 18,000-square-foot facility with plans to double capacity. In 1962, Vic developed a V-hull boat series for a better ride. 1964 marked Vic’s first million-dollar year, and in 1965 the plant grew to 100,000 square feet and employed 185 people. 1966 was a whirlwind year — Vic traveled nonstop for a month, visiting 21 cities and numerous dealers to promote and sell his product. Duo, Inc. caught the eye of Starcraft Corporation, a larger, regional boat company, and in 1966 Vic sold Duo, remaining for a time as president. Vic’s entrepreneurial urge surfaced again, and he decided to captain a new ship in 1970.
Signa Corporation was the next step in Vic’s developing career. Manufacturing tri-hull boats in a 20,000-square-foot facility with 50 employees, it wasn’t long before Vic’s second successful boat company attracted the attention of investors. In 1973, Fuqua Industries purchased Signa Corporation. Fuqua had previously purchased Thunderbird Products and Formula Boats in 1969. Vic was named chairman of the small boat group, with $3 million in sales reported that year. Fuqua Industries manufactured the three small boat lines, including both tri-hull and Formula deep-V hull boats, through 1975.
Once again, Vic felt the need to head up a company all his own, and took advantage of the opportunity created by an energy crisis. In 1976, Vic purchased the small boat group from Fuqua Industries. Vic continued the company as Thunderbird Products, manufacturing the Signa and Formula boat lines. In 1979, Signa tri-hull production was ended. Market advancement indicated heavy preference for the deep-V hull boats. The same year marked Thunderbird Products’ introduction of the Formula 302, a special edition offshore performance style boat. In every direction Vic led the company, creativity prevailed and successful innovation followed.
In 1980, integrated, continuous cockpit liners improved both structure and design flow. 1982 marked Formula’s first use of Imron® hull graphics. In 1984, as an industry first, Thunderbird Products innovated and installed curved, tempered glass windshields. Also that year, the Silent Thunder® exhaust system was introduced. In 1988, a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility was built — 345,000 square feet to manufacture the highest quality powerboats possible with a dedicated workforce of 600 employees. From facility additions to the development of new boat lines, Sun Sports in 1994, FAS3TECHs in 1997, Super Sports in 1999 and Yachts in 2002, Vic has led the company with imagination and integrity into a model business manufacturing today’s prestigious Formula Boats. Vic is now chairman of the board, often seen in the manufacturing area and in the office. Vic’s entrepreneurial spirit took him, his family and his business to places he only imagined.
Vic remains happily married to his wife of 58 years, Kristine. Together they have six children, five of whom are actively involved in the Formula Boats business. Vic and Kris have 17 grandchildren, and over the years have seen interest in the company flow into the third generation — five grandchildren full time and younger ones employed as summer and after school help. Vic and Kris have also been blessed with four great-grandchildren.
Vic has appreciated the support of his community, family and employees throughout his life, and has responded with personal involvement. Over the years he served with a number of organizations in various capacities such as the local Chamber of Commerce, including serving as president, in many areas with his church, area Boy Scouts, and helping spearhead the development and funding of Decatur’s industrial park. Vic was Adams County’s Republican Party Chairman from 1973-1975, and was on the Board of Directors of the county hospital. In earlier years he was a volunteer fireman and helped coordinate a high school drug awareness program. He also served on the Board of Directors of Indiana Central College, the Cole Foundation Board and on various committees of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The Porter Family Foundation provides philanthropic funding to local schools, churches and charities and provided the seed money for the formation of Woodcrest, a local not-for-profit retirement community. More recently the Foundation donated the land for a new hospital in Decatur, as well as aiding substantially in funding an oncology center. The Adams County Community Foundation is also a recipient of Porter funding for community enrichment projects.
Over the years, Vic Porter’s service and entrepreneurial spirit gained recognition. In 1964, Vic received the Outstanding Young Businessman Award from the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, and in 1990, Vic was a finalist for the Indiana Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was that year’s recipient of the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award, recognizing his outstanding involvement and contributions in his community and state. In 1994, the Board of Directors of Woodcrest chose the Porter name for the auditorium there, and in 1997, Vic was awarded the Stephen Decatur Community Service Award. As gratifying as all this is, his greatest satisfaction surely is that his family is carrying on in full accord with his example of living and giving, as well as continuing the business with the same values and goals he established.
Vic has literally lived his philosophy, “to be successful in business and generous in worthwhile programs that build people up to their full potential so they too will be successful, generous and serve their community.” His goal was to build a viable, Decatur-based, boat manufacturing company, and from the looks of it, mission accomplished. From small-town beginnings to the personally fulfilling present, Vic has spent his time well, as proven by his business success and family following.