TAMPA, Fla. — The IBEX 2014 Innovation Awards had a record-setting 88 products entered in 13 categories this year, a 43 percent increase from 2013.
"IBEX did a great job marketing the Innovation Awards and helping exhibitors and companies understand the benefit of competing in the Innovation Award process," said Zuzana Prochazka, the awards chairwoman and a freelance marine writer and photographer.
Prochazka presented the Innovation Awards here this morning at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference Industry Breakfast.
The largest concentrations of the 88 entries were in the mechanical systems, deck equipment hardware and OEM electronics categories. Other categories included boatbuilding methods and materials; inboard and outboard engines; interior parts and furnishings; boatyard and dealer hardware and software; and safety equipment. Seven judges, including Prochazka, arrived two days before the show opened and spent hundreds of hours examining the impressive field of nominees.
"The judges arrived with good shoes and an even better attitude," Prochazka said. There were standoffs and tie-breakers, but in the end they were able to choose a list of winners. Dometic Corporation won the mechanical systems category with its variable capacity chiller and Gemeco won the OEM category with its offshore dual engine Display.
Prochazka outlined three reasons for the increase in the number of exhibitors participating in the competition. The upswing in the industry, following a recovery from the recession is a big factor, she said. The Tampa location has made IBEX, in general, more accessible and the Tampa Convention Center is more convenient and an overall easier facility to use. A third factor, Prochazka said, is that IBEX and its show director, Anne Dunbar, have done a very good job of adding real market value to IBEX itself and communicating to exhibitors the value of entering products in the Innovation Awards. In addition IBEX has done a great job of bringing people to the show, she said.
About 700 boating industry members attended the Industry Breakfast.
Alan Wendt, who assisted in the organizing the awards, said the boatbuilding methods category had bounced back significantly. "This is a category that virtually disappeared during the recession," Wendt said. “We also continue to get a lot of mom-and-pop businesses entering products. They find that the marketing and advertising they get from the Innovation Awards is priceless."
Other awards presented today included the 2014 Marine Industry Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Awards and the Exhibitor Video Awards, or EVAs, honoring the best product and company videos submitted by IBEX exhibitors.
The Best Company Video Award was presented to Marinco/Mastervolt. The Best Product Video Award and the People's Choice Award were presented to SeaStar Solutions.
The Boating Industry Mover & Shaker of the Year was presented to Jim Lane, president, and Buck Pegg, founder of Chaparral Boats and Robalo, who have embraced change and adapted to today's radically different boating industry.
The Mel Barr Award, which honors an individual who has contributed to the improvement of the marine industry through personal involvement, was presented to Zach McLanahan, aftermarket sales manager at T-H Marine Supplies.
"We are thrilled to be here in Tampa for the first time and feel the energy and excitement from the attendees and exhibitors as we kick off this year's IBEX event," Dunbar said in a statement.
"With a sold-out show floor featuring 573 exhibiting companies, and over 7,000 marine professionals registered to attend, thousands of new and innovative products are being offered on the show floor, and over 55 technical seminars, the next three days will certainly inspire and educate boatbuilding professionals from around the country."