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October 3, 2016 | last updated October 17, 2016 7:21 am
Next 2016

#MBNext16: Drew Lyman's forward-thinking looks to the future, while still honoring Maine's boatbuilding past

Photo / Dave Clough
Photo / Dave Clough
Drew Lyman, president of Thomaston-based Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding Inc.

The 2016 Mainebiz Next list

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Drew Lyman

President, Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding Inc.

84 Knox St., Thomaston

Employees: 130 overall

Contact: 354-6904

In recent weeks, Drew Lyman, president of Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding Inc., logged meeting after meeting with customers, crews and vendors before heading to Rhode Island to represent his company at the Newport International Boat Show.

That hard-charging energy characterizes Lyman as a forward-thinking leader for his company and the industry.

Since its founding in 1978 by Lyman's parents, Cabot and Heidi Lyman, Lyman-Morse has been known for custom construction of high-end yachts, as well as service, storage and refits — combined now with R&D for the aerospace and defense industries, producing oceanographic research equipment and piloting solar energy innovations.

In 2015, Lyman-Morse acquired Wayfarer Marine, bringing new energy to the century-old Camden boatyard, but also saving jobs, creating new investment and, earlier this year, opening a restaurant, the Rhumb Line.

Cabot Lyman is still involved in the company, as is Drew's brother, Zach, director of special projects at Lyman-Morse Technologies. Credit for new initiatives, Drew Lyman is quick to point out, goes to the family as a whole.

"We do a lot of this together, especially the big-decision stuff," he says. "It's a team effort."

But innovation is always in his sights — and part of what makes the job exciting.

"It's the energy," he says. "It's never one item that we're building or servicing. We deal with the custom side of things, so you never know what's coming around the corner [in terms of new technologies and materials]. That's what makes it fun."

Raised in boatyards

Lyman started at the yard as a kid. He and his brothers were drafted to sweep floors during summer vacation.

"Dad's perspective was that, to learn the business, you start from the bottom and work your way up," he says.

After college, Lyman worked for Driscoll Boat Works in San Diego.

"I wanted to get out from under the 'owner's son' thing," he says. "I learned a lot out there."

Afterward, he worked for the owner of a Lyman-Morse yacht as caretaker and skipper. In his late 20s he returned to Thomaston, working with the yard crew. With his wife Mackenzie, who now runs advertising and marketing for the company, he started the company's yacht brokerage. That morphed into service management. Four years ago, he was named president.

Throughout, he's been instrumental in growing Lyman-Morse's technical and metal fabrication portfolio, leveraging expertise beyond the marine environment to a wide range of products and prototypes for diverse customers. On the technical side, projects range from renewable energy systems for the U.S. Army to innovative sanitation systems in Kenya. Fabrication ranges from metal hulls and marine components to architectural design.

He's involved in the company's signature cold-molded and composite yacht construction. Now under contract are two Bertram 35 powerboats and a 65-foot Stephens Waring-designed modern classic sailboat. All are for first-time customers.

"Our concentration on technology and our approach to building is superb," he says. "We're always striving to stay on the cutting edge and operate efficiently. Our manufacturing operations are built around that concept. We're not building boats like we did 15 years ago. Our CNC machines and other technologies make us far more efficient."

Getting and giving new energy in Camden

Now Lyman has amped up Lyman-Morse at Wayfarer, with new infrastructure, services and jobs. The Wayfayer boatyard has leveraged Camden's bustling summer vibe with the new Camden Classics Cup. The Rhumb Line, led by Chef Scott Yakovenko, has given the site a nighttime energy.

"The access we have through Wayfarer is amazing," Lyman says. "The Camden Classic was great. It brought a serious group of sailors to the area, some from as far as London. And it's been wonderful to get to know the town of Camden. There's a lot of activity there. Thomaston is a quiet town. Camden has lots of action."

Diversification like this is key to keeping pace in an industry vulnerable to economic ups and downs, says Lyman. The idea isn't so much about expansion as about maintaining stability for the workforce and gaining exposure.

When it comes to building yachts — non-essential goods — it's hard to predict the future, he says.

"It's a big reason why boatyards need to diversify, at least why we need to," he says. "You do your core competencies. But to predict when the next custom one-off boat is coming is difficult. We know for the next two years we'll be really busy. But trying to predict the next five years is tricky. It depends on the economy, and on how people are feeling."

Lyman sees much of his job as a builder of relationships. It's an outlook that started in childhood.

"Dad and Mom always invited customers to dinner. We'd be sitting around the table, talking and having fun," he recalls. "It wasn't so much about business as about relationships. And that's where we've always hung our hat — creating relationships. I love that."

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