The National Marine Manufacturers Association will induct two industry leaders into the NMMA Hall of Fame — Premier Marine CEO Robert “Bob” Menne Jr. and Formula Boats chairman Victor Porter.
Both will be recognized for career achievements and contributions to the industry during the 26th International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference at the annual Industry Breakfast on Oct. 4 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Tampa Waterside Marriott Hotel.
"We’re proud to celebrate Bob Menne and Vic Porter, two pioneers in the recreational boating industry, who have paved the way for its future with unwavering dedication, innovation and passion for boating, their communities and families,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement.
“Bob’s and Vic’s legacies will continue as they join the ranks of NMMA Hall of Fame inductees, including industry founders Christopher Smith, Charles Chapman, Alan Freedman and Ole Evinrude, and such contemporaries as Dusty McCoy, Bob Long, Robert Deputy and Pack St. Clair.”
Menne got his start in the industry in 1972, when he and his wife, Betty, founded Diversified Products Inc., also known as DPI. In 1980, Menne became a partner in Forester Boats, which produced small fiberglass runabouts. Under his leadership the company expanded its product line to include aluminum boats and pontoons.
Menne and his family sold DPI in 1989, and in 1992 he and his wife launched Premier Marine, which introduced new innovations and options on pontoons. Among the industry firsts: rotation-molded furniture; the elimination of all wood except flooring; the patented J-Clip fastening system; hinge mechanisms; and top frame designs, according to the NMMA.
The seagrass flooring that is now the industry standard was the work of Menne and his team. Premier Marine also offered the first full-size cuddy on a pontoon and 12-foot-wide models equipped with three 300-hp motors.
Menne also offered guidance to the boat manufacturers division of the NMMA and the NMMA board. He was active in the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and was an early member of Take Me Fishing. He advised the Department of Natural Resources on boat ramp needs and advocated for the industry in Congress.
Porter began his career in the marine industry as a salesman in 1957. Dissatisfied with the quality of the product he represented, he decided he could build a better boat.
In 1958, he borrowed $3,000 and founded Duo Marine in Decatur, Ind. The company’s first model was a 14-foot twin outboard-powered catamaran, which was followed by several runabouts, tri-hulls and a tunnel-hulled boat.
As Porter grew the company, he acquired the Aqua Swan aluminum boat and Crownline runabout brands and moved production of both lines to Decatur.
He sold Duo Marine to Bangor Punta in 1967 and in 1970 founded Signa Corp., which built sterndrive and outboard-powered tri-hull boats. He sold Signa to Fuqua Industries, the parent company of Thunderbird/Formula boats, in 1973 and was president of Thunderbird/Formula/Signa. He purchased the three lines in 1976.
In 1989, as family members stepped into executive roles, Porter settled in as chairman, continuing to advocate for the Formula legacy.
During his career, Porter was active in the Boating Industry Association when it merged with the National Association of Engine and Boat Manufacturers to become the NMMA.
He was on the boards of the BIA and NMMA, and has been very active in development and support in Decatur. He was inducted into the Junior Achievement Greater Fort Wayne Business Hall of Fame and was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Otis Bowen.
Thunderbird received the Decatur Chamber of Commerce Large Business of the Year Award in 2000.