Q&A with Frank Herhold, MIASF outgoing executive director

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10_interview_01Frank Herhold is retiring as executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. The move is effective July 1, after which he will assume an emeritus role with the organization and serve as a consultant.

Herhold has been at the helm of the recreational marine industry group since 1990, and during his tenure, membership has more than doubled to its present size of approximately 800 members. He has led the MIASF through a variety of challenges, including the luxury tax of the early 1990s, manatee and environmental regulations, longshore insurance reform and the evolutionary growth of the MIASF-owned Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

10_interview_02The MIASF under Herhold has been recognized as the Chamber of Commerce’s “Business of the Year,” and he has been honored as “Citizen of the Year” by the City of Fort Lauderdale for his community activities.

Herhold belongs to several community organizations and sits on a number of boards, including the Fort Lauderdale Chamber, Broward Alliance, Winterfest and Riverwalk, and represents MIASF interests with such groups as the Coast Guard Harbor Safety Committee, Coast Guard Area Maritime Security Committee and the U.S. Superyacht Association.

Prior to coming to Fort Lauderdale, Herhold owned and operated the Anchorage Eau Gallie Marina in Melbourne, Fla., a full-service marina and a major dealer for Chris-Craft and Boston Whaler.

Herhold holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Monmouth (Ill.) College. He lives in the Idlewild area of Fort Lauderdale, just off the Intracoastal Waterway and across from Bahia Mar. When not working, he is a “voracious reader” who reads a couple of books a week, and he enjoys boating and bicycling and time with his family. Herhold is married and has one daughter.

Q: During your tenure, MIASF has grown significantly in size. To what do you attribute that growth, and why do you feel it’s important for marine businesses to become involved in local or state trade groups?

A: There’s several reasons [why we’ve grown]. One is we became more relevant to marine businesses. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of offering a boat show discount to build membership, but we did do something that I certainly thought made a difference. We borrowed something from our local chamber and hired a membership development person, and that move paid immediate dividends. I think the third reason is the economy. We have businesses that realize we provide a valuable means of networking and increasing their reach to the customers through, certainly, our boat show, but also a lot of the community events that we do.

Our community agenda has gone well beyond 33 years of waterway cleanup and 14 years of the Plywood Regatta kid’s boatbuilding contest, and today MIASF and our members are active participants in virtually any activity or event even remotely connected with the water. The community agenda focuses on ensuring that our marine industry and MIASF are always seen as good corporate citizens of the community, and members enjoy the opportunity to meet with others outside the industry for the benefit of their marine businesses.

I don’t think there’s a better way of 1) supporting your industry, and 2) I think it’s an extremely good value. Just one customer you meet through an MIASF business-to-business or community event can pay your dues for the year.

Q: What are some of the most important issues you’ve worked on?

A: Having our local congressman Clay Shaw file the repeal bill for the luxury tax; development of the Broward County best-management practices for marinas and boatyards; any number of legislative issues which allow for boats purchased in Florida to stay longer after the purchase. The most recent legislative victory is the sales tax cap for vessel sales. I’d be remiss in not mentioning the eight-year successful initiative to exempt recreational vessels from the longshore and harbor workers’ insurance requirements.

Another major accomplishment is the growth of the membership. We’re now over 800 members, and we certainly have the major players in our region. I’d also like to comment on the fact that we are very proud that we have focused on the environment, business improvement seminars for our members, regulatory issues and building relationships with our regulators that lead to a better understanding on their part of our specific needs and requirements as waterfront businesses. That’s a huge issue because we are a very unique industry, and regulators never seem to look at the economic aspects of permitting and marine development.


Q: Florida has a state trade group as well as many regionals. Why is this important in your state, and do the groups work together on issues of importance?

A: It’s important that Florida speaks with one voice and flies one flag, particularly on legislative matters. We work with our state organization on virtually every legislative issue.

Q: What has it meant for the MIASF to own the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show?

A: There’s no other single asset that’s done so much in so many ways to help this association grow and prosper. Obviously, it’s the one key time of the year where our membership can focus on clients, and they don’t have to spend a lot of money to meet a diverse group of prospects, including a significant international clientele. It’s like having the Super Bowl come to your community every year.

The future [of the show] is bright for two specific reasons. We will be doing dredging and redevelopment plans for Bahia Mar that will include a permanent home for the boat show. In addition, the proposed redevelopment plans also include having the boat show run with the lease for the next 99 years.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges that are currently facing the industry in South Florida?

12_interview_03A: Like any other area, one of our biggest challenges is the competition for discretionary recreational spending. Competition for the discretionary recreational dollar – that will be particularly challenging as today’s consumer looks for cost-effective ways to spend his leisure time. Frankly, our industry has to do a better job of emphasizing the affordability of boating and the relaxing aspects of family recreational boating.

Q: You’ve spoken in the past about your concerns that South Florida marine businesses are moving to places such as North Carolina. Do you still feel this is a problem, and what can be done to stop it?

A: I still feel it’s a problem, the loss of businesses to more business-friendly states. We need to recognize, at the state level as well as the county and city level, that attraction, retention and expansion of the marine industry needs to be a core philosophy at all levels of government. Until we do that and come up with meaningful incentives that will help our businesses justify staying in Florida and this region, we’re going to continue to have problems in this area.

Q: What do you see as the future of the marine industry in South Florida?

A: I see it as bright. I see the region’s marine industry as alive, vibrant and highly competitive in a global marketplace, both today and tomorrow. I think we have come a long way in convincing local government that we are a vital component of the area’s economy, and we have received strong indications from Fort Lauderdale in the form of support for the boat show as the Bahia Mar redevelopment discussions continue. We’ve seen strong evidence that they see the marine industry as an integral part of the area’s economic recovery, along with tourism and real estate. As our mayor has said, it’s a three-legged stool between real estate, tourism and the marine industry that will pull us out of this economic slump.

Fort Lauderdale’s marine industry is, at this point in time, weathering the storm, and we had a great boat show last October, and everybody is, of course, looking forward to our next boat show in the fall. What’s really exciting are the redevelopment plans for Bahia Mar and the dredging project. We’re going to be dredging the Dania Cut-Off starting this summer. Phase two will be the Intracoastal, and phase three will be the New River. The Dania Cut-Off really is about the only area in which the industry can grow. We have no significant waterfront left except for the Dania Cut-Off, and that’s why we’re excited about the dredging project there.

Q: Why are you retiring now?

A: It’s time. I’d like some time to myself. If I’m awake, I’m working. It’s one of the best jobs in the world – it’s exciting – but it’s very demanding, and I think it’s time for some fresh blood, some fresh thinking. I’m still going to be involved but to a much, much lesser extent. I’ll have the title of executive director emeritus and some specific responsibilities on certain projects that I want to see through. I’m staying in the area, staying engaged, but in a much-reduced capacity.

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue.

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