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Economic news should mean more boat sales

Surveys have found that the Independence Day holiday weekend is traditionally the biggest boating weekend of the summer, resulting in about 50 percent of all boats hitting the water during the holiday period. That’s good news, but the real news is that we’ve should be feeling very good about the major economic data coming at us from multiple directions.

For example, the S&P 500 is up more than 12 percent since Election Day 2016. Lots of our customers and prospects have got to be feeling pretty good about their 401(k) savings and overall net worth.

Some might disagree, but when it comes to employment, you can’t help but see the glass as pretty full. Indeed, unemployment has now reached a 16-year low. Job openings are hitting an all-time high. That translates into solid and continued economic growth in the coming year that is now expected to reach 2.3 percent — markedly better growth than the 1.6 percent we experienced last year.

From January to May this year, new home sales rose a handsome 12 percent over the first five months of 2016. Moreover, at the end of May there was only a 4.6-month supply of new homes in the market.

Prices have been going up, too. Median home prices climbed nearly 15 percent from a year ago. The median sale price for a new home sold last month was the highest recorded since 1963 at $345,800. The average sale price also came in the highest on record at $406,400. That is a strong recovery and one of the reasons our economy and, thus, our new boat sales, are doing so well. We have always known that a rising housing market is necessary for us to experience increased boat sales.

Perhaps National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich says it best when addressing groups throughout the industry.

“All this economic news is a green light for good times in recreational boating,” he said.

A notable Florida law

In what could be a good model for other coastal states, a new law just signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott will take effect on Saturday that grants a discount on vessel registration fees for boaters who have an emergency locator beacon on board.

The law was prompted by the heartbreaking disappearance of two 14-year-olds — Austin Blu Stephanos and Perry Cohen — who were lost while fishing off Florida’s east coast in July 2015 and never found. Austin’s dad, Blu Stephanos, started the AustinBlu Foundation to help promote boating safety. The foundation was instrumental in seeing the discount idea become law.

The discount, which can range from about $10 up to nearly $20 depending on vessel length, applies annually to new or renewal registrations. It applies to an EPIRB; an emergency 406MHz PLB (Personal Locator Beacon); an ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter); or an AIS (Automatic Identification System) that, unlike a PLB which signals orbiting search-and-rescue satellites, the AIS sends an alert message to all area vessels with an AIS receiver and/or AIS-enabled plotter, while also signaling the DSC alarm on the boater’s VHF radio.

The new Florida law is personal to more than Blu. Republican State Rep. Colleen Burton, who co-sponsored the House bill, says a PLB saved her son’s life.

“On December 10, 2016, my son Tim was rescued by the Osceola County Sheriff’s office,” Burton said, “and the reason Tim and his friend, Billy, were rescued was because they had a personal locating beacon, which was a gift from my daughter-in-law to my son the previous Christmas. This is real life. This saves lives!”

Democratic State Sen. Bobby Powell, the law’s Senate sponsor, says he’s convinced a locator could have helped save Austin and Perry.

While only Florida currently offers such a discount program, and though other states might never follow suit, the stories about EPIRBs and PLBs saving boaters’ lives are many and true. So it’s clear that dealers with customers who boat or fish offshore should be familiar with these devices and speak freely to those customers about the lifesaving value of having them on board.

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