Skip to main content

For the Record: MRAA names its next president

The Marine Retailers Association of America named Matt Gruhn the next president of the organization. He will succeed Phil Keeter, who is retiring at the end of 2011.


“We went through a very extensive process,” MRAA chairman Dave Foulkrod says. The association received more than 90 résumés.

“[Gruhn] was very professional in his presentations, and he had follow-through from the process, some pretty impressive follow-through,” Foulkrod says. “He does have marine industry experience, knowledge and background. He has experience in working with large groups of people, working with committees, developing processes and getting things done. He has public speaking experience. He has a lot of technical competency in terms of new technology.”

As group publisher overseeing Affinity Media’s trade group — Boating Industry and Powersports Business magazines and their ancillary products — Gruhn was instrumental in implementing and executing Boating Industry’s Top 100 Dealers Program and the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo.

A 14-year veteran of the marine industry, Gruhn has spent the last eight years at the helm of Boating Industry. “I’m extremely honored to be selected as the next MRAA president,” Gruhn says in a statement. “Having worked with boat dealers so closely over the years, I really believe this position is a natural fit for my passion, and I’m excited to begin ramping up all that the MRAA has to offer today’s dealers.”

Gruhn will retain his role at Boating Industry for the next several months and will begin phasing into the president’s position at about the start of the fourth quarter, working alongside Keeter.

Keeter was one of 12 founding dealer members of the MRAA in 1972. He served on the group’s board from 1972 through 1982 and was named president of the association in February 1988.

— Beth Rosenberg

Connecticut enacts boat luxury tax

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a budget into law May 4 that raises the state sales tax and includes a 0.65 percent luxury tax on boats. The luxury tax initially was proposed as a 3 percent levy.

Earlier proposals that called for removing four marine-related exemptions from the state’s sales tax — winter storage fees, labor fees on maintenance and repairs, brokerage commissions and credit for trade-in values — were dropped after strong opposition from the Connecticut Marine Trades Association and others in the industry.

Grant Westerson, president of the trade group, says the damage to the industry could have been worse.

“Of the five issues affecting the industry, we got rid of four of them,” Westerson says. “We’re pleased that we got as far as we did.”

Under the new budget, the Connecticut sales tax will increase from 6 percent to 6.35 percent. A 0.65 percent luxury tax will be added on boats that sell for $100,000 and more, for a total tax of 7 percent. Westerson says the message from the association is simple: “We don’t have a 7 percent luxury tax; we have a 0.65 percent luxury tax.”

Although the tax difference in dollars and cents to boat buyers may not be a deal-breaker, Westerson says the perception of Connecticut as a tax-heavy state could affect buyers. Referring to the 1991 federal luxury tax (repealed in August 1993) that devastated the industry, he says, “Anyone who’s been in this industry for the last 20 years knows that a luxury tax does not work when you factor in the unemployment benefits paid to laid-off workers.”

The budget is scheduled to take effect July 1 but is contingent on union concessions or state employee layoffs to balance it.

— Rich Armstrong

NMMA: More boaters, fewer sales in 2010

Of the 231.5 million adults living in the United States in 2010, 75 million — about 32 percent — participated in recreational boating, according to findings from the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s annual Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract.

This is the highest level of participation in recreational boating since 1999, when 33.4 percent of adults were boating, according to the NMMA. The participation represents an increase of 14 percent from the recessionary year of 2009, which saw 65.9 million boaters.


There were 1,118,130 powerboats and sailboats sold in 2010 (not including canoes and kayaks) — a 4 percent decrease from 2009. New power and sailboat unit sales totaled 188,230 in 2010, a decrease of 10 percent, compared with 2009’s decrease in unit sales of 35 percent, signaling that the rate of decline in new-boat sales is slowing. There were 929,900 used boats sold in 2010, a decrease of 2.4 percent from 2009, a likely result of continuing pent-up demand for boats and consumers looking for lower price points in the used market.

In the new-boat market, sales of outboard boats — often small fishing or water sports boats — fared best, declining 4 percent, compared with 2009. There were 112,800 new outboard boats sold in 2010. In the used market, sales of sterndrive boats, typically less than 26 feet, remained steady, increasing 0.03 percent, compared with 2009. There were 175,800 used sterndrive boats sold in 2010.

Overall recreational boating retail expenditures for boats, engines, trailers, accessories and services totaled $30.4 billion in 2010, a 1 percent decline from the previous year.

The NMMA is offering the statistical abstract as a PDF file that members can download from its website ( The printed full-color report is about 240 pages. To order, call (312) 946-6209. Starting in the second week in June, members will be able to download one free digital copy. Additional copies on DVD are offered to members for $250.

Survey shows increase in marine lending

All respondents to an April survey of National Marine Bankers Association members say the dollar volume of loans booked in the first quarter of 2011 was up from the same period last year. The survey, conducted by the association, was done to gauge changes in the lending environment and identify trends that could be used for business planning.

Thirty percent of association lender members responded, including loan originators/brokers, financial services firms and banks, with the majority having a national presence. Asked about their outlook for the second quarter, 92 percent indicated that they expect business to increase from the same period in 2010. Other responses indicate that credit quality is up and that lending criteria are mostly the same or less stringent.

All respondents reported a more positive mood among retail buyers, and 75 percent saw increased interest in boat loans.

Brunswick honors its top facilities

Three Brunswick Corp. facilities received the Chairman’s Safety Award, the company’s highest honor, and 21 additional facilities were recognized with Distinguished Awards for their 2010 safety performance.

The Chairman’s Safety Award, selected and presented by Brunswick senior management to the most outstanding performers, went to the following facilities:

• Edgewater, Fla., Brunswick Commercial and Government Products

• Taycheedah, Wis., Mercury Marine Racing

• Palm Coast, Fla., Brunswick Recreational Boats

Each of the facilities will receive a $10,000 grant from Brunswick that will be donated to a local charity the plant chooses. Additionally, the Palm Coast facility achieved 6 million hours worked without a lost-time incident in December 2010, and the Taycheedah facility achieved 1 million hours without a lost-time incident in January 2010.

Miami yacht club goes green

Sunset Harbour Yacht Club, located along 2 acres on Miami’s Biscayne Bay, announced sustainable upgrades and new infrastructure designed to prevent pollution and preserve marine life.

Upgrades include installing a water quality monitoring device that can track water flow, sediment buildup, and chemical and biological factors, and alert local agencies if there is a spill of any kind; pursuing wind and water generation devices that would meet the self-sustaining needs of the marina; switching from wood to eco-friendly fiberglass composite pilings; and replacing pressure-treated wood decking with 100 percent recycled synthetic decking.


The yacht club’s future plans include possibly creating a natural reef under the club’s docks as a wave-attenuation device that would benefit Biscayne Bay. “These socially responsible initiatives will not only reduce SHYC’s carbon footprint, but preserve our waterways for future boating generations,” says general manager Doug Mason.

Industry mourns three veterans

Larry Johnson, founder of EZ Loader Boat Trailers, died May 6 in Spokane, Wash. He was 97. Johnson started EZ Loader in 1953 and built it into the largest boat trailer manufacturer in the country, the company says in a statement. In the mid-1960s he patented the “All Roller Trailer.” Trailers previously had bunks or a combination of bunks and rollers.

EZ Loader is still managed and owned by the Johnson family. Larry Johnson’s son, Randy, serves as president.

Alex Chueh, founder of Ocean Alexander, died May 3 after a long battle with a terminal illness, the company announced. He was 77.

Born Oct. 19, 1933, in Fujian, China, Chueh pursued a career with the military early in life. He graduated from the Taiwan Military Academy and enlisted in the army, retiring from full service in 1970. He started Ocean Alexander in 1978, with the 50 Mark I as the first vessel. About five years later his yard built Nighthawk, a 70-foot motoryacht and one of the largest yachts ever produced by an Asian yard.

“Alex will be remembered as one of the pioneers of the Asian yacht industry, successfully establishing a market in the U.S. for his boats,” the company says in a statement. “During his lifetime over 1,500 Ocean Alexander boats were completed and over 40 new models introduced as the company grew with his vision and the continued vision of his son, John Chueh.”

Another industry veteran, John “Walkabout” Sisson of Lenoir City, Tenn., died April 29. He was 44. Sisson spent 20 years at Malibu Boats, most recently as vice president of Tennessee operations for the builder. At the time of his death, he was director of operations at Bryant Boat Co.

“He was an outstanding person,” Joe Bryant, president of Bryant Boat Co., says. “He had a wealth of knowledge. He quickly won over all the employees and was just a model guy.”

Sisson had been working at Bryant for about nine months, Bryant says.

Washington bans copper antifouling

Washington has become the first state to ban copper-based bottom paint on recreational boats. Under the bill that Gov. Chris Gregoire signed in May, no new boats with copper-based bottom paint can be sold in Washington after Jan. 1, 2018, and no paint with more than 0.5 percent copper can be used on recreational boats as of 2020.

The law applies to recreational boats 65 feet and under.

The marine industry and environmental groups supported the bill, says Peter Schrappen, director of government affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association. It was introduced this year and passed on the first attempt with bipartisan support, he says. “It’s a bill that we were proud of,” Schrappen says, predicting that other states likely will follow suit.

Meanwhile, the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association is raising concerns about a proposed California bill that would make it unlawful to manufacture, sell or distribute marine antifouling paints that contain copper in the state after Jan. 1, 2015. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Christine Kehoe, would require paint manufacturers to use the least toxic alternative when replacing copper.

In a letter to the Unified Port of San Diego, association president Pam Lendzion urged the director of Environmental and Land Use Management to exclude “transient vessels” from draft amendments to the bill.

“I am especially concerned about the negative economic impact of SB 623 on our California member yards,” Lendzion wrote. “The added difficulty created by SB 623 will make foreign ports and the U.S. East Coast more attractive to foreign-flagged transient vessels. The yachts will not consider a California yard for their refit and repair work if [those yards] cannot apply the antifouling paints that can be applied in foreign countries and on the U.S. East Coast.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue.



Avikus Debuts Autonomous Navigation

The company will demonstrate ‘Neuboat’, an autonomous phase-2 navigation solution for recreational boats at this year’s FLIBS.


Scope of Ian’s Devastation Emerges

Southwest Florida’s marine industry businesses are ensuring the welfare of their people well before the cleanup even begins.


Mercury Marine Receives Environmental Award

The company was recognized in the large business sustainability category by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.


MarineMax Closes IGY Marinas Acquisition

The deal adds 23 megayacht marinas, the Trident superyacht membership and management platform and Fraser Yachts and Northrop & Johnson to the company’s portfolio.


Coast Guard Foundation Activates Emergency Relief Program

The nonprofit is providing support to Coast Guard members and families impacted by Hurricane Ian.


Torqeedo Announces New Leadership

Fabian Bez assumes the CEO role while Heiko Veitmeier comes on board as CFO.


ABA Celebrates 30 Years

The America Boatbuilders Association was founded in 1992 with the objective of collectively buying engines, raw materials and manufactured products at better prices.