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Waterford — Defender Industries will be getting a little more elbow room in its offices and a new showroom for its boats after breaking ground Tuesday on a major expansion at the boating-supply company’s headquarters off Great Neck Road.
Nearly two dozen employees posed with hard hats and shovels during the morning groundbreaking that Stephan K. Lance, president of Defender, said would mean an extra 17,000 square feet of space at the marine retailer. He estimated the building project, scheduled to be largely completed by October, would cost more than $2 million.
“When we first came here 18 years ago, it’s not something I ever dreamed of — I never thought we might run out of space,” Lance said.
But with more than 100 workers today — double the number that Defender employed when it moved to Waterford from New York state in 1996 — Lance said it was time to expand. He estimated that warehouse space would be increased by 15 percent, and the parking area would grow by about 20 percent.
The new showroom for inflatable and sports boats will give Defender more room to keep a large assortment of items in stock, he said, meaning that the company can continue to deliver products with quick turnaround times.
“We have the largest inventory in the industry,” he said.
Another key focus of the expansion is office space. A new 3,600-square-foot, two-story building next to Defender’s sales area will nearly double the current office space for executives and administrative personnel.
“The offices really were right on top of one another,” he said.
Lance said the expansion does not come with any immediate plans to increase staffing levels. Instead, he hopes to focus on keeping current employees happy and engaged, a formula that has led to a decade of record growth even when the boating industry as a whole faced recession-related setbacks.