NORTH LITTLE ROCK, (KTHV) -- Many boat lovers say when you're on the water you feel at peace andrelaxed. That's certainly how Tom Cox feels. He's the owner of the south's oldest pontoon boat company. This week's Made in Arkansas takes us to Aloha Pontoons.
"I just love the water," says Cox. The beauty on the Arkansas River is breathtaking. Cox took THV 11 out for a glimpse.
"I get out as often as possible. My personal favorite is Lake Ouachita," he says.
Cox grew up on Arkansas' waters. It's here he developed a love for all things boats.He says, "Back when I was a child these[pontoon boats]were just small lake boats."
The year was1960. Cox's dad and great uncle decided to start a family business. They called itAloha Pontoons.
The boats were not only smaller, but a lot less expensive. People used lawn chairs for seating or no furniture at all.
As for the engines, Cox explains,"They were very slow and they've evolved so much over the years."
And the evolution happens at their 50,000 square foot plant in North Little Rock.Cox exlpains, "We are actually the oldest builder of pontoon boats in the south."
The company has22 workers; Dave Allen is one of them. He's worked here for 49 years and is the company's longest employed worker. "I have seen more people come and go my lifetime," Allen laughs.
He started at age 18 as one of the boat spray painters. When asked if he thought he'd be here nearly five decades later, he responds, "No ma'am but I'm glad. I am really."
Allen is hands on with a lot of his co-workers. Training can take up to a year. "We are probably five to eight employees short," says Cox.
In recent years, Aloha Pontoons took a hit with the weak economy. There were layoffs and they went from making four to five boats a day down to one.
But there is some good news for this innovative company. Cox says, "We are seeing an upswing over the last 12-18 months."
Busy season isFebruary through August. They're biggest seller is duck hunting boats. The equipment is constantly being upgraded. And they're always working on new models. The boats range from $12,000 to $120,000. There's a variety of 25 of models to chose from.
"I believe it helps you mentally to be on the water," says Cox.
It's Arkansas' landscape and serenity that keeps him grounded. Cox says, "It's just a great place to be from."
Cox hopes hiscompany's mission of quality and luxury will continue moving full speed ahead.