American Boating Congress seeks to appeal to larger audience

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes
Plenty of networking occurs each May when the recreational boating industry meets in Washington, D.C.

Plenty of networking occurs each May when the recreational boating industry meets in Washington, D.C.

Organizers of the American Boating Congress, which will be held May 15-17 in Washington, D.C., say the event could be more influential this year because the marine industry is partnering with other outdoor recreational groups, spreading its message among more people.

The NMMA and other industry groups have joined with the newly formed Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable to highlight the economic impact of outdoor recreation and become unified around issues that affect it, such as infrastructure improvements and access to public lands and waters.

“That’s one of the opportunities this year — elevating the concerns of all outdoor recreation,” including boating, fishing, archery, camping, hunting and more,” Nicole Vasilaros, vice president of federal and legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, told Trade Only Today.

“If we can be a part of that greater message, it helps to tell a really good story that we haven’t done good service to in the past,” Vasilaros said.

Industry stakeholders who believe that new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will help open access to public lands and waters praised his appointment.

The entire Trump administration and the new Congress give the boating industry a unique opportunity to effect change as well, Vasilaros said.

“We’re trying to take advantage of the fact that have a new president and a new Congress,” Vasilaros said. “All ABCs, we think, are important, but when it’s a fresh start both in the administration and on Capitol Hill, it’s an opportunity to tell our story and to educate the 62 new members of Congress.”

The ABC will include three tracks of issue workshops this year. The NMMA said there are nine new issue workshops on this year’s agenda, divided into three subject tracks — a business track, an environment and access track and a workforce and compliance track.

The business track will offer sessions on tax policy, infrastructure and trade. The environment and access track will offer sessions on access and conservation; boating safety; and recreational fishing saltwater policy.

The workforce and compliance track will offer sessions on workforce development; fuel policy; and the environment regarding health and safety compliance.

Industry workforce shortages will also be a big message at this year’s event, said Matt Gruhn, president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.

“That’s our biggest issue, frankly,” Gruhn said. “We’ve had several years of consistent growth. The more we’re growing, the more trouble we’re having finding people to fill the positions.”

Read more about the upcoming American Boating Congress in the May issue of Soundings Trade Only.

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