MIAMI BEACH - Jeff Malehorn, president and CEO of GE Capital's Commercial Distribution Finance, didn't mince words when talking about his company's dedication to the marine industry.
"Look at our actions," he said. "We are completely committed. We're putting our money where our mouth is and we're completely committed to this industry."
Malehorn was part of a panel that spoke about "moving forward" at a session held Wednesday prior to today's opening of the Miami International Boat Show.
Malehorn acknowledged the challenges the industry has faced in the last few years, calling those in the room "resilient," "dynamic" and "action-oriented." But he said "the year of the crisis is officially dead" and it's time to move forward and grow.
GE financed $300 million in new credit lines in 2010, he said. Although retail sales of boats were down 14 to 17 percent last year, he estimated that sales will rise 11 percent this year.
The marine industry is positioned for market growth, Malehorn predicted, citing increasing dealer turns and aged inventory being back in line with more "normal times" as two positive indicators.
His positive outlook was largely shared by Rob Podorefsky, managing director of the Interest Rate Management Group at GE Capital. He said the country is in the seventh successive quarter of economic growth, a situation he called "an impressive reality."
Data largely have shown an improving economy since last August, including more than 3 percent growth in GDP, and there has been no talk from the Federal Reserve about raising interest rates.
The biggest stumbling blocks we're facing, Podorefsky said, are a historically high federal deficit and "obscenely high" unemployment. However, he said, the country should start seeing more job creation in 2011 and 2012.
Also, he said, the housing market, though still volatile, is starting to stabilize.
The GDP is expected to grow more than 3 percent in 2011, Podorefsky said.
"This is pretty good," he added. "This should be a pretty good year."
— Beth Rosenberg