ABC brings more players onto the stage - Trade Only Today

ABC brings more players onto the stage

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Ten groups from the industry join the NMMA to co-host the annual legislative and lobbying program

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As an extension of last year’s Growth Summit, the National Marine Manufacturers Association is again reaching out to the entire industry — this time inviting all stakeholders to take part in the American Boating Congress.

The ABC, an annual legislative and lobbying program, is scheduled for April 24-25 in Washington, D.C.

Traditionally, the NMMA has organized and sponsored ABC. This year the manufacturers’ organization reached out to other stakeholders, offering them an opportunity to co-host the event. The idea is to bring more people out to learn about the issues affecting the industry and give them a chance to meet with their representatives on Capitol Hill.

No financial involvement was requested from the co-hosts, NMMA legislative director James Currie says.

This year’s co-hosts are the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas; Center for Coastal Conservation; South Carolina Marine Association; National Marine Distributors Association; Boy Scouts/Sea Scouts; Boating Trades Association of Metropolitan Houston; U.S. Superyacht Association; the Association of Marina Industries; the National Marine Bankers Association; and the Michigan Boating Industries Association.

“This is a partnership,” Currie says. “We’re just really thrilled with this, and we’re anticipating that next year it will catch on more and we’ll get more co-hosts. Everything about the marine industry that is affected by legislation affects us all, and therefore we wanted to get all parts of the industry together.”

Nancy Cueroni, executive director of the distributors’ association, says she has been going to ABC for years and welcomes the opportunity to get her group more involved.

It’s an opportunity, she says, to let elected officials know who you are and why your industry is important to their district or state.

“What makes a difference is I now have a name of someone I can call who’s going to recognize me or take my call,” she explains. “If you only contact them when there’s a problem, you probably get shuffled aside. If you contacted them or invited them to come visit your place of business and shared how many employees you have and what your specific issues are, when something comes up your name is going to be in a log somewhere.”

MRAA president Matt Gruhn says his organization plans to host a full board meeting at the ABC and will actively encourage members to attend.

“While individual MRAA board members and staff have participated in ABC over the years, this year will be much different,” he says. “We simply decided that we would support the event and everything it stands for as a united group and demonstrate to Congress, as well as our industry colleagues, that our industry stands together.”

The program

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The ABC opens April 24, with most of the program taking place the following day at the National Guard Association of the United States, a few blocks from the host hotel, The Liaison Capitol Hill. The agenda includes:

• Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service: Jarvis leads an agency that preserves and manages nearly 400 national parks, which include some of the nation’s most treasured landscapes and cultural icons. He will speak on issues such as Biscayne National Park and the proposed general management plan, threatening to close access to boaters and anglers.

• Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.: Harris serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure, Natural Resources and Science, Space, and Technology committees and chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. He will speak on E15, including information on what people can do to help stop the higher-ethanol-content fuel blends.

• Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.: Whitehouse is co-chairman of the Senate Oceans Caucus, and will talk about the oceans and Great Lakes and how recreational fishing and boating on them are economic drivers for the country.

• Francisco J. Sanchez, undersecretary of commerce for international trade: Sanchez will discuss the New Marketing Export Initiative, of which the NMMA is a strategic partner.

• Neil Newhouse, Public Opinion Strategies: Newhouse is a partner and co-founder of that company — a national political and public affairs research firm that has been described as the leading Republican polling company in the country. He will discuss the 2012 elections and offer a political forecast for the year.

• Greg Ip, The Economist: Ip is U.S. economics editor for the London-based publication, and covers the economy, financial markets, and monetary, fiscal and regulatory policy from Washington. He will discuss economic change and how it may affect the post-recession recreational boating industry.

Perhaps the most critical component of the ABC is the meetings with lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill. The NMMA is scheduling those meetings for the afternoon of April 25.

Visits can also be made individually or with others from an attendee’s state or community. Those interested can also request a meeting with a member of Congress who does not represent their district, if applicable.

NMMA government relations staff will review general industry issues before the conference, as well as on the day of the event, and briefing documents and talking points on these issues will be available to take along on the Capitol Hill visits.

Among the issues Currie expects to be of importance this year are E15, any proposed tax issues, and the reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund.

A private BoatPAC reception is also on the schedule. BoatPAC is the NMMA political action committee that raises money to support favored officeholders and candidates. “We try to figure out who needs our help and who have been our friends and who have been the most helpful to us on various issues,” says Currie. “You support people who support you,” he says, emphasizing that the PAC is bipartisan.

“We have a lot of hope that the PAC is going to become bigger and more vigorous in its fundraising, and that allows us to be more aggressive in supporting people on the Hill,” he says. “We look at not whether it’s a D or an R behind their name, but whether they support recreational boating.”

As for the upcoming election, Currie says the NMMA is “highly bipartisan” and does not publicly take sides.

“We work with whoever is in office,” he says. “The seats that are up in the Senate would favor the Republicans because there are a lot more Democratic seats that are up than Republican seats, so it would look as if, other things being equal, the Republicans would have a better-than-average chance of taking the Senate. That would certainly cause some changes in terms of the whole atmosphere on the Hill.”

For more on ABC or to register, go to www.nmma.org/government/abc.

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue.

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