On May 6, Jackson Kayak announced the purchase of Werner Paddles, forming an alliance between two powerhouse paddlesports brands that have been in operation since 2004 and 1965, respectively.

Jackson Kayak purchases Werner Paddles

The acquisition was eight months in the making, but according to Emily Jackson, marketing director at Jackson Kayak, the company had been looking for acquisition opportunities for the last year and a half.

“Basically we have a very large factory and there’s only so much we can produce out of that factory as far as kayaks go,” she explains. “So we’d been looking to find a company we aligned with to potentially bring in production in Sparta, Tennessee.”

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The priority was to find a company representing similar synergies as Jackson, such as offering higher end products and working with dealers. Then came word that Werner Paddles was facing challenges manufacturing paddles at their factory in Washington.

a person whitewater kayaking in a Jackson kayak with a Werner paddle
Feature photo: Peter Holcombe

“We recognized we had the solution for that in a sense of manufacturing in Tennessee is just a great state,” says Jackson. “It’s a lot more affordable. And it’s a very easy state to manufacture goods in in comparison to the Pacific Northwest.”

Conversations between the two companies began. According to Jackson, Bruce Furrer, owner of Werner Paddles, was deciding between moving the company or selling. At the end of the day, selling Werner made the most sense.

“Anyone that’s manufacturing on the West Coast right now is definitely struggling with the rising cost,” says Jackson. “Paddlesports as a whole doesn’t match the levels of inflation with how much it requires for us to actually produce these goods.”

It was a “perfect storm,” continues Jackson, for Jackson Kayak to have space for Werner Paddles in their factory and to be able to help them continue their legacy.

What’s in store for Werner

For the time being, paddles will continue to ship from Washington, while Jackson Kayak and Werner work to set up production in Tennessee. The goal is to begin manufacturing all Werner paddles in Tennessee in August.

Another component of the acquisition has been working to bring the Werner team to the Southeast. All employees at Werner were extended an invitation to make the move.

“The moving of the product, the moving of the machinery, all that is one thing,” says Jackson. “But then it’s also getting the right people in our factory for a period of time to ensure that the paddles are made to at least the same level of quality, if not even better eventually.”

a woman holds up a Jackson whitewater kayak with a kid inside holding a Werner paddle
Photo: Heliconia Productions

For the meantime, Jackson Kayak will be maintaining the product lineup at Werner, with a plan of using the rest of the year to assess what’s being offered and ensure the lineup is sustainable. In other areas, changes have happened right away, such as bringing reps back onto the Werner team—positions that were eliminated during the pandemic.

Jackson says the company is grateful to Furrer for trusting them with Werner.

“With the resources we have, the space we have, the factory in Tennessee, the team we have, the reps we have—I’m really excited because I think it’s going to reinvigorate even more energy back into Werner.”

Feature photo: Peter Holcombe



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