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Conferences fill the November calendar

The lineup includes the Marine Lending Conference, Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, and METS


Following the summer selling season, fall events provide opportunities for various segments of the industry to sell products, exchange ideas and network. Groups such as the National Marine Bankers Association and the Marine Retailers Association of America traditionally meet in November, the same month that METS - the Marine Equipment Trade Show - is held in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The following is a preview of each event:

Marine Lending Conference

The National Marine Bankers Association will hold its 30th annual Marine Lending Conference Nov. 8-11 at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in Hilton Head, S.C. This year's conference includes a full agenda of topics of interest to the industry, along with a keynote speech by Brunswick Corp. chairman and CEO Dustan McCoy.

Topics expected to be addressed include marine lending challenges, determining collateral value, details of the "Red Flag" program to prevent identity theft and other fraud, an update on the U.S. and global economies, credit market upheaval, and credit scoring.

NMBA president Jim Coburn will offer a "nuts and bolts" presentation on such topics as legislative issues, an update from the American Vessel Documentation Association on Coast Guard documentation, Grow Boating efforts and other industry initiatives. Also on the agenda is an update on the Small Business Administration's floorplan lending program.

"If you're a banker, you're going to learn what's new in credit underwriting guidelines, what's new in the financing world. You're going to learn what's going on with the economy," says Coburn. "You're going to hear from the No. 1 boatbuilder in the world."

Discussions on the SBA program should be of particular interest, as many dealers say it is difficult to find banks that will work with them on floorplan financing. "I found [the SBA] very, very willing and understanding of what the needs are to make the program work," Coburn says. "The banks are either not knowledgeable about it or are unwilling to participate ... and we're trying to educate the banks about floorplan lending because many of them have never done it before."

In addition to the various sessions, networking opportunities with others in the industry make the conference invaluable, Coburn says, adding that 100 to 200 people generally attend, and they're not just bankers. Attendees also include industry partners such as insurance companies, maritime attorneys, those who work with repossessions and others.

"I always walk away with new knowledge when I go to the NMBA conference," Coburn says. "That's what I love - I love the networking."

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Marine Dealer Conference & Expo

The Marine Dealer Conference & Expo moves to Orlando, Fla., from Las Vegas this year and, with more manufacturers expected to take part, organizers are hopeful the combination will mean more attendees. The event takes place Nov. 16-18 at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.

A number of boat companies are holding dealer meetings or workshops around the conference, and the manufacturers exhibiting include Cobalt, Manitou Pontoon Boats, Pursuit, Regal, Sea Fox/Mariah, and Smoker Craft. "This is going to give dealers a better return on their investment, because if they pay airfare to get there and registration, then they can do some other things while they are there," says Phil Keeter, president of the MRAA, co-sponsor of the conference.

"I think all the extra support we're getting from the manufacturers this year is exciting. We have worried and worried and worried about the attendance when we talk about the fact that times are so tough, but this may give people a reason to come, when they can combine two or three things," he adds.

As of early October, Keeter says, about 60 companies had signed up to exhibit; last year's conference had around 40. Registration also is ahead of last year, though most dealers register in the last month before the conference.

The theme of this year's conference is "GPS: Growth, Profitability and Solutions for Navigating Today's Market." Under this theme, the educational sessions have been divided into tracks: sales and marketing, service department, and commercial and retail lending. There are also general sessions, a keynote presentation on "Leading through Turbulent Times" - presented by Disney - and networking receptions and luncheons. Sessions include The Dealership of Tomorrow, The Art and Science of Inventory Management, 20 Tips for a Stronger Service Department, Marketing Your Service Department, The Future of Selling, The Six Cs of Lending and Recovery, and Growth in Today's Market. In all, there are more than a dozen educational sessions, including panel discussions.

The conference also includes the industry giants panel and Top 100 Dealers reception, presented by Boating Industry magazine, which also is an organizer of the conference. Keeter says there may be some changes to the industry giants panel this year. The committee was talking about adding dealers to the panel, in addition to manufacturers.

This year's conference also features social registration for spouses who are not in the industry but want to attend the lunches and receptions, Keeter says. "Going back to Orlando makes it a little bit more of a family affair," he says, adding the event could also benefit from dealers who can drive in for the day, something which doesn't happen in Las Vegas.

For information, go to

Marine Equipment Trade Show

Now in its ninth year, METS bills itself as the "world's largest exhibition of equipment, materials and systems for the international marine leisure industry." The Amsterdam-based show is scheduled for Nov. 17-19, and organizers expect 1,232 exhibitors, making this the biggest METS to date. In addition, 193 companies are first-time exhibitors, including 33 in the SuperYacht Pavilion. METS 2008 attracted 18,485 visitors from 80 countries.

"In these troubled economic times, we were definitely not expecting a record number of exhibitors for METS 2009," says senior product manager Irene Dros. "We experienced a huge sense of relief when exhibitor commitment reached a healthy level, but as the numbers have steadily built up our relief has turned to plain delight. It's an enormously encouraging sign of the fighting spirit in our industry and the strongest possible endorsement of the value global companies place on METS as the place to do business."

The show features 15 national pavilions, and pavilions for U.S. and Canadian companies are organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. As of late September, there were 71 NMMA-member companies in the U.S. pavilion and seven in the Canadian pavilion, according to Melissa Gurniewicz, NMMA project manager for trade events. A total of 120 U.S. companies are slated to exhibit at METS, 102 of which are NMMA members.

"METS is the place to get your products seen," says Gurniewicz, adding that the U.S. has 17 new exhibitors this year. "It's a good place to grow business and introduce [products] to the international market."

Gurniewicz says the U.S. and Canadian pavilions have been relocated closer to the SuperYacht pavilion, a move she hopes will translate to more traffic.

One highlight of METS is the presentation of the DAME Awards (Design Award METS). All products entered in the competition must be displayed at METS or the SuperYacht Pavilion in 2009 and comply with the rules of participation. Registration fees for this year's program go to the African Medical & Research Foundation Flying Doctors for the creation of accessible water supplies and sanitary facilities in Mtwara, Tanzania.

For information, visit

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.



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