Providence show opens today

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association will host an Industry Breakfast on Friday during the 23rd annual Providence Boat Show.
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The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association will host an Industry Breakfast on Friday during the 23rd annual Providence Boat Show.

The show, which is presented by Washington Trust, opens today and will continue through Sunday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Owned and produced by RIMTA, it will draw 150 exhibitors from throughout New England.

Friday’s breakfast meeting, which will be held from 10-11:30 a.m., is themed “Reimagining the Way We Do Business.” The event is an opportunity for RIMTA members, Providence show exhibitors and their peers to celebrate industry excellence and explore issues critical to the industry.

RIMTA will award the John H. Chafee Boater of the Year Award to Neal Harrell, president of the Brooks Marine Group, a Newport-based management recruiting firm focused on the marine trades.

“Neal Harrell is a true advocate who understands the importance of promoting and cultivating the workforce our industry needs to thrive,” RIMTA CEO Wendy Mackie said in a statement.

“While Neal educates national audiences frequently on how to hire and retain excellent employees, he works diligently in Rhode Island and is a valuable team member who has helped to strengthen our workforce development efforts here in our home state.”

The Boater of the Year Award honors someone who has contributed to the success of the recreational boating industry in Rhode Island or championed the cause of bringing recreational boating to the public. Harrell joins distinguished Rhode Islanders who are past recipients, including the late Ted Hood Sr., Halsey Herreshoff and Ken Read.

RIMTA placed a keen emphasis on making this year’s Providence show both an opportunity for exhibitors to learn how to improve their trade-show performance and a platform for testing strategies for attracting younger boating consumers.

Presentations by experts during the breakfast will round out RIMTA’s efforts to explore these issues.

The breakfast’s keynote speaker will be Carol Nicolau of the Disney Institute, the professional development arm of The Walt Disney Co. Nicolau will speak on “The Impact & Importance of Quality Service” and help attendees understand how they can apply elements of the successful Disney service model to their own businesses.

The breakfast also will include a panel on “Capturing the Next Generation Market” with three under-40 industry leaders who will give the audience insights on attracting younger workers to the marine trades and younger boating consumers.

Panelists will include Jon Lyons of Ocean House Marina (Charlestown, R.I.), Mike Melillo of Dockwa (Newport, R.I.) and Abby Smith of New England Boatworks (Portsmouth, R.I.).

National trade show expert Susan Ratliff, who led two educational sessions earlier this winter for Providence show exhibitors on how to make their participation more profitable, will judge and announce booth competition winners in five categories.

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