ORLANDO, Fla. — Boating professionals need to step up efforts to tap in to the increasing buying power of minority-group members while also developing plans to solve a daunting workforce shortage problem.
That was the two-pronged message delivered Wednesday at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo’s “State of the Industry” luncheon at the Orange County Convention Center.
National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich struck down the misconception that minority groups, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, are unable to afford boating.
“These populations are in our most populous boating states, and they’re growing very rapidly,” Dammrich told the audience of more than 600 at the event, which was sponsored by Volvo Penta.
“So we are experiencing some seismic shifts in population trends that provide a major business opportunity for our industry. As the census data shows, there are millions and millions of people in these populations who have the financial wherewithal to be boat owners.”
Dammrich backed his statements with a long list of facts.
• Hispanics will represent 52 percent of U.S. homeowners by 2030.
• Hispanic buying power is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020.
• The median age of the Hispanic population is 29, compared with 43 for the non-Hispanic white population.
• From 2000 to 2014 the African-American population grew 35 percent faster than the total population.
• The percentage of black high school graduates in 2015 enrolled in college jumped to 70.9 percent from 59.3 percent from the previous year.
• African-American spending is expected to increase from $1 trillion in 2013 to $1.4 trillion by 2017.
• Asian-American households in 2014 had the highest median income of any racial group — $72,689.
• Nearly 54 percent of the Asian population ages 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher education, compared with 32.5 percent of the entire U.S. population.
Strength in numbers
The tremendous potential of these markets should motivate industry leaders to strengthen the workforce, said Matt Gruhn, president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, which recently released a report highlighting the shortage of technicians and other industry professionals.
“The workforce shortage is a tremendous challenge, but at the same time there is an enormous opportunity to grow boating — as we’ve seen here today,” Gruhn told Trade Only Today after the luncheon. “We can go out and go after diverse markets. We can sell more boats. We don’t want to dwell on the workforce crisis; we are countering the challenges we are faced with by also talking about the opportunities.”
The MDCE, which set a record for attendance this year with more than 650 marine industry professionals, also serves as a rallying place for the industry as it moves into 2017, event organizers say.
“The primary purpose of the event is the education,” Gruhn said. “The dealers come here to learn, to sharpen their axes, to strengthen their businesses. But while they are here they know there is strength in numbers; this is the largest group we have had here; there is a lot of strength in that — strength to advance the industry because we are all here under same roof.”