TAMPA, Fla. — At the Industry Breakfast that opened the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference today, National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich presented an optimistic outlook for this year and next.
Dammrich pointed to 2016 figures of $36 billion spent on recreational boating and the fact that 142 million people, including adults and children, went boating. Additionally, of the 17 million people who went boating for the first time last year, half were under the age of 18. The figures are positive indicators for the future of recreational boating.
He also expects new-boat sales to be about 6 percent higher this year than in 2016.
“We’re glad to see so many people here in IBEX,” Dammrich said. “It’s important we’re here for a lot of reasons.”
Dammrich and Anne Dunbar, IBEX show director, said the industry rallied behind the parts of the country that hurricanes Harvey and Irma affected.
“A week ago I didn’t know I’d be standing here saying these words, ‘Welcome to IBEX,’ ” Dunbar said. “Our decision to move forward was not made lightly.”
Based on early IBEX figures, the industry supported organizers’ decision to move forward. The breakfast was sold out, as was the outdoor dock space. More than 650 companies are exhibiting, and of those 108 are new participants. There were eight super sessions on Monday, and more than 50 seminars are scheduled during the three-day show.
Because the Tampa area was largely spared damage from Irma, the only problem with setting up the show was that the company that was contracted to install the exhibitor docks, which is based in Miami, was pressed into emergency service. The Tampa Convention Center worked with permanent dock residents to temporarily relocate them so exhibitors could use the in-water space.
Showing support for the local community, IBEX show co-owner RAI and the NMMA announced a $5,000 donation to the organization Feeding Tampa Bay.
Feeding Tampa Bay has put a disaster relief plan into action, distributing food in the 10-county area around Tampa Bay through a network of food pantries and mobile pantries it supports or operates.
In his state-of-the-industry presentation, Dammrich explained that it was important for IBEX to take place because of the positive economic impact the show has on the Tampa area.
Additionally, he eased the concerns of many breakfast attendees when he gave an update on the condition of the site for the upcoming Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key. “There was no damage to the infrastructure that we need to produce the show,” Dammrich said, adding that the docks for the event were safe in storage.
New for 2018, the Strictly Sail show in Miami will join the powerboats on Virginia Key. Dammrich said the 2017 show had an $854 million impact on the Miami economy. “The Miami boat show is the five biggest days in boating,” he added.
Taking a look at some more figures from 2016, Dammrich said 32 percent of new boaters in 2016 were Hispanic and 83 percent of anglers are active boaters.
“Boating and fishing go together like peanut butter and jelly,” he added. Lastly, 73 percent of active boaters started on the water when they were under the age of 17, which Dammrich said is “critical to our future.”
Of the $36 billion spent on recreational boating last year, $11.7 billion was used for new boats, motors and trailers, $8.7 billion went to pre-owned products and $6.4 billion was spent on accessories, with the balance going to storage, maintenance and other expenditures.
Dammrich said the industry is in its sixth year of growth, with 1.2 million boats purchased in 2016. There were 15.8 million boats in use last year, 11.5 million of which were powerboats.
Pontoon boats are at pre-recession highs in terms of units sold and a number of categories are at those same highs in terms of dollars spent. Dammrich said this was attributable to factors that included higher consumer confidence and consumer spending. Dammrich expects continued growth through 2018, with a slight drop-off in 2019 followed by two years of growth.
On the legislative front, Dammrich said the NMMA’s top priority is passing the Modern Fish Act to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to allow recreational saltwater fisheries to be managed differently than commercial fisheries.
“This is so important to our industry,” he said.
Ethanol continues to be a hot-button item, and Dammrich drove home the industry’s desire to see the ethanol level in fuel limited to 10 percent. The NMMA is part of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, and Dammrich stressed the importance of supporting BoatPAC, a joint effort by NMMA and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas to support members of Congress who back the recreational marine industry.
Lastly, Dammrich announced the Marine Industry Retirement Plan, a multiple-employer plan designed to help manufacturers provide additional benefits to employees.
Also announced at the breakfast was the induction of Chuck Rowe, president of Indmar Marine, to the NMMA Hall of Fame.
“For Chuck, it hasn’t just been about his business,” Dammrich said in the announcement.
“I’m honored to have been chosen to receive this award,” Rowe said. “It means a great deal to me that the work we do is so important to others.”
The Mel Barr Award was presented to Ron Schmitt, president and CEO of G.G. Schmitt & Sons, by Neal Trombley, incoming president of the National Marine Representatives Association, and Tim Hennagir, editor of Boating Industry magazine.
Hennagir also recognized Jack Springer, CEO of Malibu Boats, with the Boating Industry Mover & Shaker of the Year Award.
The keynote speaker at the breakfast, Olympic hockey star Jim Craig, best known as the heart and soul of the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, stressed the importance of having a moral compass, putting family first and conducting yourself with integrity.
“The reason I’m successful is I had people who believed in me, and I didn’t want to let them down,” Craig said, adding, “For all the people you represent you have to leave here more valuable than when you came.”