A new venue with an in-water display, continued generation of innovative products and a stronger economy contributed to the success of this year’s International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference in Tampa, Fla., Sept. 30-Oct. 2, organizers say.
IBEX attracted 6,900 marine industry professionals — a 47 percent increase from 2013, when the industry trade show was held in Louisville, Ky. This year 558 companies exhibited at the Tampa Convention Center, up 15 percent from the 2013 show.
“We see the increase in attendees as a reflection that boatbuilders are building again and they are looking for new and innovative ways to build better boats,” says IBEX show director Anne Dunbar. “With a strong economy and such a successful event, we are confident that the 2015 event in Louisville [Sept. 15-17] will be strong as we bring the industry together to celebrate our 25th anniversary.”
In addition to the spike in attendance and exhibitors, seminar registration was up. More than 500 conferees participated in the educational sessions, an increase of 6 percent from 2013. International attendance was up 35 percent.
Participants are seeing the growth of IBEX as a reflection of the state of the industry.
“We’re anticipating good times ahead for recreational boating,” National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich said at the opening-day industry breakfast. “The industry continues to see healthy growth, with retail expenditures increasing 3.2 percent in 2013, to $36.9 billion. Americans are taking to the water in record numbers, and we’re anticipating continued steady growth of 5 to 7 percent in new powerboat sales through 2014. Now is the time for marine innovation.”
Dunbar says the IBEX team felt a positive vibe all week. Along with a 34 percent increase in exhibitor pre-registration and a 43 percent increase in the number of companies that entered products in the Innovation Awards competition, the numbers were impressive.
“It was the best IBEX show I have ever attended, and I have been to all of them for the past 12 years,” says Blue Sea Systems senior vice president David C. Johnson.
“I thought the venue was perfect — to have boats only a short stroll away, I thought, was exceptional. We had customers from New Zealand to Sweden and every significant boating state in the country, and they all had a positive vibe about the industry and the event.”
Exhibits, docks, boats
The IBEX exhibit floors, docks and the outdoor demonstration areas attracted large crowds on all three days of the show.
Special sections in the exhibit hall included The Connected Boat, an interactive exhibit sponsored by Simrad-Navico that featured a dozen companies showcasing products that connect onboard boating systems to smartphones and home computers.
The 3-D workshops also drew large crowds throughout the conference. DRS Technologies and RhinoFabStudios held live demonstrations of 3-D printers, 3-D scanners, laser cutters and CNC machines.
Dunbar says IBEX attracted nearly 100 new companies. One of them was Material ConneXion, which helps companies leverage materials innovation to create better products.
“This is our first time to IBEX and we are really excited,” says Sarah Hoit, a materials scientist at ThinkLab, a consultant company for Material ConneXion, which showcased an interactive materials library with 50 of the more than 7,500 advanced, sustainable materials in the company’s library. “The marine industry always has fascinating innovations. We are looking for cross-industry inspiration. We want to share innovations from other industries with the boating industry.”
Engineered Marine Coatings (EMC2) came to IBEX to launch its Quantum marine coatings product, a topcoat and urethane, says company president Jon Boswell. “We are doing a full rollout of the product and IBEX seemed to be the place to make that happen,” he says.
Another new company on hand was Prototyping Solutions, a major distributor for Stratasys 3-D printers. This was its first marine show. “The uses of 3-D printing in the marine industry are endless,” says company representative Vince Denino.
“The marine industry, I think, has been slow to take up 3-D printing, and I think there is a ton of room for growth because they are constantly creating new products and new designs,” says Denino. “This technology would be a great complement to that.”
Prototyping Solutions has about a half-dozen marine clients so far, he says,
On the water
There were on-the-water exhibits and live on-the-water demonstrations this year for the first time.
More than 15 companies, including propulsion manufacturers, electronics manufacturers and helm and steering manufacturers, secured slips with boats.
Honda, Mercury, Simrad and Elco were just some of the companies that had boats in the water rigged with their products. Mercury was showcasing its 250-hp, 4.5-liter gasoline sterndrive, its first in-house-built gasoline sterndrive, and its new 90-hp FourStroke outboard.
Elco Motor Yachts LLC, an upstate New York company that already offers 70- and 100-hp electric inboards and 5- and 7-hp outboards, installed a diesel/electric hybrid propulsion system in a 34-foot trawler from Beneteau. The system teams a 425-hp Cummins diesel and a 20-hp Elco electric motor. Back inside, Elco was presenting for the first time its new 5- and 7-hp electric outboards.
“We are very happy that the organizers of IBEX arranged for in-water opportunities,” says Elco senior sales manager Ted Norris. “It was ideal to be able to demonstrate our product by taking people out on the water and showing them how it works and letting them experience the system.”
The first day of the event included Dammrich’s State of the Industry address. He identified the two most important factors that affect the industry — weather and Congress — and encouraged industry members to get involved in political initiatives that are important to boaters, such as the ethanol debate, sportfishing regulations and all of the issues that surround the pending reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
He stressed the importance of social media in marketing campaigns, specifically online video content, and revealed that the NMMA’s Stories of Discovery campaign has received more than 7 million views. Discover Boating’s sponsorship of country star Jake Owen’s Days of Gold concert tour drove 1.75 million people to Discover Boating’s website, Dammrich says.
Innovation Award winners were announced at the Industry Breakfast. A record-setting 88 products were entered in 13 categories, a 43 percent increase in entries from 2013. (See list of winners at left).
Other awards presented at the breakfast included the 2014 Marine Industry Customer Satisfaction Index Awards and the Exhibitor Video Awards, or EVAs, honoring the best product and company videos that IBEX exhibitors submitted.
The highlight of the industry breakfast was the keynote address from legendary NCCA Division I basketball coach Bob Knight, whose speech brought together basketball and boating. Knight told conferees that he was happy to answer any questions at the end of his talk “as long as there aren’t any dumb questions.” He turned down the first question, and when asked about the location of his favorite fishing hole, quipped, “I would tell you but then I’d have to kill you.”
Theresa Nicholson contributed to this report.