Niagara Gazette — A pair of jet boat operators who made waves in late April when they successfully navigated their vessels through the lower Niagara River and the rapids to the falls are now pressing ahead with plans to offer paid tours for passengers.
Mike Fox and his business partner, Chris Bohnenkamp, operating under the company name, Niagara Jet Adventures, LLC, have applied for tax incentives through the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency as part of a plan to provide jet boat tours on the lower Niagara.
Fox and Bohnenkamp, piloting a pair of 26-foot BWC Gatlin jet boats, launched April 27 at Youngstown and traveled about 14 miles upriver, past the hydroelectric power plans at Lewiston and Queenston, through the Whirlpool and the rapids to within 100 yards of the falls. Their maiden voyage, which caught local authorities off guard, was intended as a test to prove the boats' safety and reliability.
The company's formal business plan calls for jet boat passengers to be taken on a less risky route, one not involving the treacherous rapids between the Whirlpool and the base of the falls. Riders will be instead taken by boat from the Water Street marina in Youngstown up the Niagara Gorge to the Whirlpool and back to the marina.
Fox told members of the NCIDA's Board of Directors on Wednesday that his firm plans to offer trips on three, 33-foot boats starting in August. Fox said the boats offer 22 enclosed seats, as well as 11 spots outside the enclosed area for more adventurous passengers.
The enclosed nature of the vessels will allow for longer operation throughout the year, with Fox saying the company plans to run tours for up to 10 months annually.
"We're hoping to extend our season because our boats are enclosed, and they are heated and air conditioned as well," Fox said.
Fox's business partner, Bohnenkamp, is in the river boat business on the Snake River in Idaho and will be supplying the jet boats. The company is also working with Old Fort Niagara on tours and other local businesses to offer package deals.
Niagara Jet Adventures, LLC has requested a five-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement as well as sales tax and mortgage recording tax exemptions. Company officials expect the project to create 11 full-time positions with a total payroll by year three of operation of $420,000.
The NCIDA's board voted unanimously to accept the company's application for assistance before scheduling a public hearing on the proposal for 3:30 p.m. July 17 at village hall in Youngstown.