Businessman J.D. Hamilton hadn’t intended to be a marina operator on Lake Cumberland.
But after his family convinced him to rent a houseboat on the giant lake more than a decade ago, he saw potential and began looking to get into the business.
J.D. bought Lee’s Ford Marina Resort, which is on a picturesque tributary of the lake, in 2004.
The lake draws millions of visitors a year, but the numbers dropped after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made an emergency decision in January 2007 to lower the level of the lake to facilitate repairs on Wolf Creek Dam, which impounds it.
The marina had to move clients’ houseboats so fast that workers cut television and electrical cables to keep the docks and boats from being damaged.
Marinas had to make costly changes to deal with the lower lake level, and revenue for many lake businesses, J.D.’s included, dropped along with the water.
He’s had to pour in money to keep the business afloat.
“It’s like a hill, you get up it, then there is a valley and another hill to go,” says J.D. “I may not make it.”
Still, the indefatigable entrepreneur is pitching new ideas for business, including a floating amphitheater, a floating lighthouse and a new type of houseboat that looks more like a traditional house.