Industry gains momentum in New Jersey

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A strong boat show, reduced sales taxes, a sales tax cap and more money for dredging. These are just a few of the successes the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey has brought about for its members and it’s a great example of why every dealer and marina operator should be a member of their local and state marine trade associations.

A record number of attendees sailed through the doors of the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center in Edison for the sixth annual New Jersey Boat Sale & Expo produced by the MTA/NJ. Dealers showcased more than 70 boat brands of all types ranging from aluminum utility boats to canyon-capable bluewater fishing machines. Hundreds attended the angling seminars presented by the Recreational Fishing Alliance and The Fisherman Magazine while younger boaters enjoyed activities and crafts in the popular “Kids Cove” presented by New Jersey Sea Grant.

“Overall, attendance rose 13 percent for a new record,” MTA/NJ executive director and show manager Melissa Danko said, “while our exhibit space was again sold out and there were excellent sales reports from dealers throughout the four-day show.”

“The association has done an excellent job with the New Jersey Boat Sale & Expo,” said Barry Constanzo of New Jersey Outboards. “Attendance was great, the show was organized, the marketing was excellent and the venue is inexpensive for the consumers as well as the dealers. It's just a great show and I would never miss it.”

The improved economy and high consumer confidence notwithstanding, a major reduction of the New Jersey sales tax on boats likely added even more inducement to buy a boat at the show. The MTA/NJ played a decisive role in gaining both a sales tax cap and a major reduction in the sales tax rate applied to boats.

Specifically, the general New Jersey sales and use tax rate was reduced in 2017 and will see a further reduction next year. But, for boats, the reduction is much bigger — an exemption of half of the applicable sales tax rate. In other words, while the current state sales tax rate is 6.875 percent, it’s just 3.4375 percent on boat purchases. It will be even lower in 2018. What’s more, there is also now a $20,000 sales/use tax cap on boats.

“Our goal was to make our members more competitive with other states that offer sales tax reductions and/or a sales tax cap,” Danko said. “We took our economic impact message to lawmakers and, as is always the case with issues such as tax reductions, we worked hard to convince lawmakers to support the ultimate changes in our state’s tax code that really helps our industry.”

Dedication to gaining favorable treatment for members is a hallmark of Danko’s leadership of MTA/NJ. (She was fittingly named the industry’s 2015 Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year.) While the devastation brought on MTA/NJ member dealers and marinas by Hurricane Sandy might be a faint memory for most of the nation, it has remained very real in the Garden State.

So there’s no surprise that Danko has been a tireless advocate for New Jersey to appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more time and federal funds to complete the dredging of channels clogged with sand and silt by Hurricane Sandy.

A key agency Danko worked with is the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Office of Maritime Resources. “We recognize and thank that agency, as well as the Department of Environmental Protection, for their vital work on this appeal process,” Danko said.

Since Sandy, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has restored 12 channels to their authorized depth with another 15 currently being dredged. DOT commissioner Richard T. Hammer said: “But there is still much work to do. FEMA’s decision is a recognition of the magnitude of work required and the economic importance of providing safe navigable channels to small businesses such as marinas, bait and tackle shops, charter companies, as well as the commercial fishing industry.”

The impact of MTA/NJ’s pushing for the appeal really comes into focus with these facts: Of the more than 200 channels that had some level of shoaling from Sandy, 131 are eligible for FEMA reimbursement. But federal regulations originally required all of the emergency dredging work to be completed by Oct. 30. The successful appeal has resulted in FEMA reclassifying the projects as permanent work and extended the deadline for completion to Dec. 31, 2024.

Finally, Danko also serves as chairman of the National Marine Trades Council, an organization made up of the state and regional marine trade associations around the country. She has announced the NMTC will hold a one-day meeting of members on May 15 in conjunction with the American Boating Congress in Washington. Meeting details will be sent shortly to all marine trade associations.

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