MDCE 2012: Panel urges ‘backbone’ to fight regulations

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The marine industry needs to come together to lobby Congress and fight regulations that are adding costs to the price of boats without adding value for the consumer, and builders might even consider lawsuits to counter some of the regulations that already have been enacted.

That was the message from four industry giants who sat on a leader panel Wednesday at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo and answered questions from Boating Industry editor-in-chief Jonathan Sweet, as well as members of an audience of about 200.

“I attended a day on the Hill where you meet with congresspeople and we don’t do it very well,” said Paxson St. Clair, CEO and co-owner of Cobalt Boats. “You kind of have to scratch your head. We are small, but we appear even smaller in Washington. We don’t support our PACs well, and we need to do better as an industry.”

St. Clair joined Yamaha Marine Group president Ben Speciale, GE Capital marine group president Bruce Van Wagoner and Brunswick Corp. CEO Dustan McCoy for the panel, which lasted close to two hours.

“The cost added as a result of engine regulations is huge,” Speciale said. “It’s a better product, but it’s a regulation-driven change and it’s pretty significant. It’s wonderful that gas doesn’t evaporate at the same rate it did, but the best thing we can do as an industry is know your congressman and senator by name. The next wave is worse because there’s no benefit to the consumer.”

“At the American Boating Congress three or four years ago, our PAC was one fifth of the sand and gravel industry,” St. Clair said. “The number of people … depends on the marine industry, and we all need to be involved in that PAC.”

“The 3.0L sterndrive engine costs 32 to 38 percent more than it did because we had to catalyze those engines,” McCoy told attendees. “I can sit in my office in Lake Forest, Ill., and see more emissions go by my window in one hour than sterndrives produced in a year.

“We’re probably going to have to initiate a bunch of lawsuits in coming years and that’s something we’ve not been ready to do, but something we might have to do in the next four or five years,” McCoy said. “We are a small industry, but we might have to get backbone and fight some of these regulations.”

“There are more farmers than ethanol manufacturers,” McCoy added. “Who won this battle? The farmers weren’t ready for it and they took the whooping and now we’re going to have to live with it.”

Read more about the panel and dealer conference in January’s Soundings Trade Only.

— Reagan Haynes


3 comments on “MDCE 2012: Panel urges ‘backbone’ to fight regulations

  1. Ann Kinner

    As the owner of a small maritime business (and a holder of a USCG 100 Ton license) I am hyper aware of what the environmental regulatory climate is doing to the boating industry. As a member of the National Federation of Independent Business, I am also aware of the difficulty in getting people to stand together and speak out on the issues that affect them, at all levels of government! My own experience in California suggests that we can have an impact, but it takes coalitions to get things done, so see what other industry organizations you can draw into your battles (and law suits). If you can identify common causes, and work together, you can have a much bigger voice when dealing with the regulatory agencies. It’s the reversal of “divide and conquer” and critical to our survival.

  2. Doug Reimel

    You are correct, if we do not stand together our industry, our livelyhoods will be legistated right out of existance. This is what I have learned: 1) e-mails to your elected representatives is great, but for each letter you right it is considered the voice of 200 plus people. If you want your letter to have more validity you must vote in you districts primary. Many primaries determing who is elected not the general election. Primary voters get responses and letters are counted as 500 peoples opinion, because primary voters are engaged. To increase that count per letter to 1000 become a precint delegate and get involved. Precinct delegates who vote in primaries get elected officials attention because, you can make or break them in their careers. Get involved with the PAC.

    If you want to know more get in touch with me.

  3. William Doolittle

    I am a witness to four years of indifference bordering on support from industry insiders (as communicated in articles published in this journal) for the presidency of the United States that began in 2008. Well, now he’s been reelected; it’s a little late to sound the alarm.

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