If you’re looking for evidence that our industry is on a growth curve, it was confirmed at the 42nd annual meeting of the National Marine Trades Council last weekend in Orlando.
The council primarily addresses two areas: the role the associations play in our industry and the production of our industry-owned boat shows. The 28 representatives from 18 national and local associations attending the meeting reported seeing growth this year in one or both areas.
When it comes to success for the associations, membership is one very important measure. The Great Recession triggered a decline in membership for virtually all associations. But the bleeding stopped last year and 2013 has been a turnaround year for many.
Specifically, a survey of the 18 associations present at the meeting produced the following: eight reported a membership increase of up to 10 percent; one reported an increase between 10 percent and 20 percent; one enjoyed an increase of more than 20 percent; six reported membership remained unchanged; and only two experienced a membership decrease.
“Our increase has been from regaining members who dropped out during the recession and are now in better shape,” Connecticut Marine Trade Association president Grant Westerson said. Others, like Ken Lovell, president of the Boating Trades Association of Metropolitan Houston, attributed membership growth to more aggressive recruitment. Regardless, 16 of 18 either experiencing growth or remaining unchanged is another positive industry sign.
But the most important measure of success isn’t memberships, but what the associations accomplish for their members — achieving things that no member could ever accomplish on their own. In that regard, the associations have been racking up many impressive successes of late that improve the business climate and opportunities for their members. Here are a few examples of successes no dealer could ever get done alone:
• The CMTA led an offensive to successfully have lawmakers repeal a luxury tax on boats in their state. The CMTA also gained favorable legislation that allows boat buyers from out-of-state to buy in Connecticut and use state waters for an extended time.
• The BIA of New York, the Central New York MTA and the New York MTA (Long Island) teamed up to turn a sales-killing mandatory education bill into a favorable one. Meanwhile, the Michigan BIA hit home runs by getting lawmakers to approve sales tax- on-the-difference legislation and also garnered millions of state dollars for harbor dredging.
• The Northwest Marine Trade Association succeeded in getting lawmakers to put money back into the state boating fund, while also getting the salmon fishing season extended for recreational anglers. Similarly, NMMA West (formerly the Southern California MTA) prevented legislation that would have raided the Harbor Maintenance Fund for non-boating uses, while continuing to aggressively fight fishing closures proposals along the California coastline.
• Finally, the South Carolina Marine Association successfully engineered three “Big P” federal grants to build boating infrastructure, the first such grants ever for the state. The SCMA also successfully brought back their spring in-water boat show after a two-year hiatus.
And, speaking of boat shows, they were the other focus of the NMTC annual meeting and we’ll examine those proceedings in next Tuesday’s Dealer Outlook. In the meantime, if you are not a member of your state and/or local marine trade association, you should be. As you can see, they get things done you couldn’t hope to by yourself and clearly your membership is actually an investment to improve your own business.