American Boating Congress takes on added importance


“I hate politics. I hate everything about it. I hate the positioning, the slippery maneuvering, the glad-handing and the lack of authenticity!” So wrote Wanda Kenton Smith last year in the July 2016 issue of Soundings Trade Only.

Known for telling it like it is, this top marketer in our industry rightly contends attending the upcoming American Boating Congress (May 15-17) might be more important to boating’s future than ever before.

I suspect there’s a mistaken impression by dealers that ABC is primarily a manufacturer’s show-and-tell because it’s organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s legislative staff in Washington. It’s not.

For many years before retiring, I and up to a dozen dealers in the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association would set off for D.C. to be part of ABC. There were always issues — some years more critical than others — that we could influence face-to-face with our representatives and senators in Congress. And this year — well, you can say there are issues.

Looking back, I recall how important it was to the lawmakers that we were from their state or district. They see (or duck) lobbyists every day. But when it came to seeing and talking directly to us folks from back home, we were roundly welcomed. It was easy and friendly. They asked pertinent questions about our issues. Almost always, we met with our representatives on the House side.

On the Senate side, at times when a senator wasn’t there to meet with us, we always met with the senator’s staff member(s) who took copious notes with which to brief the senator. In other words, not one minute on “the Hill” was ever wasted. Neither was time in the ABC general sessions and workshops. These were eye-opening learning experiences.

For example, this year there are nine new issue workshops on the agenda divided into three key subject tracks: (a) The business track includes sessions on tax policies, infrastructure spending and trade ramifications; (b) The environment and access Track covers conservation and boating access, boating safety and recreational fishing; (c) workforce and compliance track will deal with workforce development, fuel policies and environment, health and safety compliance.

It’s obvious where this blog is going. First, I beg you, right now, to read Kenton Smith’s article to get a real inside look at what attending ABC is like, especially if you’ve never been.

Second, the leaders of all state and local marine trade associations, accompanied by other officers, directors and dealer members should commit to the need to attend ABC this year and make provisions accordingly. I can’t overstate the profound impact, negative or positive, that the changes in the White House and Congress will have on our businesses going forward. If you value your business and want to make a positive difference, investing in a trip to ABC is a no-brainer.

Just as Kenton Smith explained, after you register, the ABC team will provide you with all the what’s, how’s and why’s you’ll need to make your time successful and enjoyable.

You can begin here by learning more at