SUPPLY AND DEMAND: Reidar’s Trawl Gear and Marine Supply expanded to a 21,000-square-foot New Bedford building last July. Above, owner Reidar Bendiksen, left, and son Tor Bendiksen, chief operating officer, with employees Meghan Lapp, front, and Sarah Fortin.
A business that serves commercial fishermen has built-in challenges, among them weather, changing fish populations and federal regulations that substantially impact planning and development. To survive and thrive, a marine design and supply business has to be nimble, innovative and just plain determined.
Last year’s expansion of Reidar’s Trawl Gear and Marine Supply to a 21,000-square-foot building in New Bedford is a visible statement that the family business is on the right course. The move consolidated the original Fairhaven, Mass., office, design and production space and a separate warehouse.
The purchase of the land and construction of the new building were accomplished with the assistance of a $779,000 loan from the South Eastern Economic Development Corp., in cooperation with Bristol County Savings Bank. The funding was provided under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 504 program, which allows funds to be used for the purchase of real estate and equipment.
In the new building since last July, Reidar’s now has adequate space for a welding shop for repairs, which is a substantial part of the business, as well as space for offices, design and production.
“We design gear that specifically targets selected species. For instance, I design gear to catch haddock, which are abundant now. You don’t want to catch flounder with the haddock, so with our gear, you don’t even bring the flounder into the net,” said Chief Operating Officer Tor Bendiksen.
“I design on AutoCAD” software used for design and drafting, he said.
The company produces the specialized gear that’s used by commercial fishermen mainly on the East Coast of the U.S. and in Canada.
Designs and products that meet changing demands of the market began with founder Reidar Bendiksen, Tor’s father and a fisherman who figured there must be a better way when it came to one piece of flawed fishing gear after another.
“My father came from Norway to Fairhaven in 1963 when he was 16 years old. He was the captain of a boat by the time he was 18,” said Tor Bendiksen. “He saw the opportunity in the scallop and fishing industry in New England and there was a Norwegian community developing in the New Bedford area.” Other family members had settled in the region in the 1950s.