Today, more than 30 representatives of South Carolina-based boating and fishing businesses are gathering in the state capitol at Columbia to introduce the newly formed South Carolina Boating and Fishing Alliance with Gov. Henry McMaster headlining the list of speakers.
“Our state is rich in boating and fishing opportunities,” says McMaster, “and the birth of SCBFA with a mission to protect and grow these great outdoor activities will surely have an important, positive impact on our future. We welcome SCBFA.”
More than 30 South Carolina-based boating- and fishing-related companies comprise the SCBFA. Founding members include boatbuilders, fishing gear manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, marinas and tackle retailers.
Alan Lang, director of sales and marketing for Scout Boats and an SCBFA board member, puts it this way: “As a South Carolina boat manufacturer, we’re very excited about the opportunity to have our voices heard by lawmakers and regulators to help ensure our future success in creating jobs and building boats that can be enjoyed on the many waterways we’ve been blessed with here in South Carolina. This is an exciting day for our industry.”
It may be a little-known fact, but South Carolina is home to more than 30 iconic brands of boats and fishing tackle that represent 3.1 percent of the state’s GDP. Fishing licenses alone contribute $6.7 million to the state’s economy. And it ranks seventh in the nation per capita in registered boats, topping the half-million mark. (One in 10 residents has a registered boat.)
“By any measure, time on the water — fresh and salt — is the top recreational activity in our state,” says Chris Butler, SCBFA chairman and owner of Butler Marine. He also serves on the Center for Sportfishing Policy Board. “This organization will focus on connecting the outdoors lifestyle with economic growth policies while being a positive influence for the protection and advancement of the industry through advocacy, education and stewardship. It just makes sense to give our industry and consumers a unified voice.”
The new organization has four goals:
1. protect and expand the boating and fishing industries
2. connect the outdoors lifestyle to governmental, economic development policies
3. promote workforce readiness
4. advance environmental stewardship
Wasting no time taking action, SCBFA is already tackling workforce issues. Noting that while many industries have suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, South Carolina’s boating and fishing manufacturers are growing and are actively seeking qualified workers. The SCBFA has already formed a Workforce Development Committee, led by Lisa Waller of Falcon Boats.
“Most South Carolina high school and college outdoors enthusiasts don’t know about the professional opportunities that this industry offers,” Waller says. “We want students in South Carolina to know there are opportunities to work and thrive in our industry, and we want to make opportunities for industry-specific training and education available and recognized by our state.”
In addition to McMaster, speakers at today’s kick-off include Sen. Thomas Alexander, chairman of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee; and Rep. Brian White, president of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses. In addition, Bassmaster anchor and fishing hall of famer Davy Hite will address the meeting, while Robert Boyles, director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, will lead attendance by numerous members of the Sportsmen’s Caucus.
“We are home to major brands known worldwide in boating and fishing,” says Gettys Brannon, CEO of the SCBFA. “South Carolina has the most unique economic mix of boating and fishing-related businesses in the United States. We want to have a recognized voice in policymaking not only for our members companies, but the millions of South Carolinians who spend time on the water.”
Brannon’s passion for boating and fishing is obvious. He touts the economic impact on South Carolina as big and growing. For example, boating and fishing represent a combined $5.1 billion in annual economic impact to South Carolina and support 23,000 jobs. Brannon is a former college fishing national champion and a two-time College Fishing All-American and FLW Cup Qualifier. In addition, his experience in the outdoors industry includes a four-year stint in various media and advisory roles for B.A.S.S.
The SCBFA founding committee includes:
• Chairman: Chris Butler, Butler’s Marine
• Vice Chair: Patrick Stamps, Local Boy Outfitters;
• Ken Eubanks, Lew’s/Strike King
• Hampton Anderson, Sea Hunt Boats
• John O’Keefe, Yamaha
• Lisa Waller, Falcon Boats
• Kelsey Dick, Shimano NA
• Alan Lang, Scout Boats
• David Winters, Rusty Hook Tackle Shop
• Caroline Dillon, Pure Fishing
• Roger Metz, Woods & Waters SC Radio
• Neil Paul, Visit Anderson
• Advisory Member: Ross Self, SCDNR