Regular readers of Dealer Outlook know that no one believes in the value of our state marine trade associations more than me. MTAs do for their members what the members couldn’t do by themselves. And, every marine dealer, marina operator and manufacturer within a state should be a member of their state organization.
The Marine Trades Association of Maryland is a great example. First, MTAM assumes the role of advocate and is the voice of the recreational boating industry on regulations and Maryland laws. In fact, MTAM reviews more than 2,000 bills each year during the Maryland General Assembly. Typically the potential impact on boating of more than 50 of those bills will necessitate some direct action on behalf of the MTAM members.
Many times, MTAs are defending against negative impacts of legislation or regulation. Equally important are the many times an organization like MTAM is on the offense, pushing for specific government action that can benefit boating and MTAM members. For example, MTAM obtained funding for its on-the-job training program from the state’s EARN Maryland Grant Program administered by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
MTAM has just announced two of the association’s on-the-job apprenticeship trainees have been promoted to full-time positions with Hinckley Yacht Services. Apprentice Shane Laureska is the current dockmaster at Hinckley in Oxford, Md. Laureska first became interested in the marine industry watching the boats come in and out of the waterfront restaurant he worked at before applying for MTAM’s six week on-the-job-training program. Through this training, Laureska learned nautical terminology, the skills for launching and blocking boats, and what goes into general maintenance of a boat yard. He has recently started learning Hinckley’s computer systems to provide purchasing support and will be moving into a carpentry position.
Apprentice Cain Knopp entered the MTAM program with a background in painting boats and has gained skills in basic boat carpentry, body work and fiberglass through the training program. Specifically, Knopp studied the processes and procedures of the service shop in the first few weeks of his program and is now working on a teak restoration project. He plans to pursue a Yamaha outboard certification at the end of this summer.
“In today’s challenging labor market, we are thankful to be working with MTAM to find talented and hardworking apprentices," said Hinkley Yacht Services' manager Eliott Anderson. "We are excited to share in the success of the program and future accomplishments of our new hires.”
In a parallel effort, MTAM also maintains an online listing of current openings in the state’s recreational boating industry. The listing points out that with the vast number of jobs that make up our industry — from painting the bottoms of boats to selling the million dollar yacht to managing the largest marinas to the artistry of boat carpentry and much more — there is something for every personality and ability.
Lobbying for a fair share of government spending for the industry is also a strength of the industry’s MTAs. In Maryland, MTAM’s recognition influenced the state’s Department of Natural Resources to recently award $12.5 million in Waterway Improvement Fund grants to enhance and improve public boating access, facilities and navigation throughout the state. Funding will go toward 57 projects in 18 counties for projects including dredging local and federal channels; maintaining public boating access facilities; improving and upgrading existing infrastructure such as bulkheads, parking, piers and ramps; and purchasing rescue equipment for emergency and first responders. Marina renovations, floating dock installation, construction of dingy docks, and transient dock construction are also included in these projects.
“We are committed to expanding opportunities for our citizens and visitors to appreciate all that our waterways, coastal bays, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean have to offer, and these grants will allow even more Marylanders to make memories out on the water,” Gov. Larry Hogan said.
Indeed, Maryland is responsive to the industry in additional ways because MTAM continually makes sure it’s well-known there’s a hefty $269.6 million in annual sales of boats, engines and accessories, and boating generates a $2.4 billion annual economic impact for the Old Line State. So, it’s no surprise the Department of Natural Resources has announced an innovative expansion of its communications channels to include Amazon Echo.
Now, through a partnership with NIC Maryland, the department offers the Maryland Fishing Report providing anglers with the latest fishing hotspots, catch of the week, water and weather conditions and more as an Alexa Skill. Fishermen can use the new Skill on a desired Amazon device by simply saying: “Alexa, open Maryland Fishing Report.” They can choose to hear the entire fishing report or information for specific areas or regions, including the upper, middle or lower Chesapeake Bay, freshwater fishing or Atlantic Ocean and coastal bays. The skill aggregates the extensive existing department content, providing an enhanced user experience and it’s certainly a model for others.
Whether it’s lobbying lawmakers and regulators, promoting boating and related events, addressing industry employment issues or developing new programs that will help members be more successful, our industry’s MTAs across the country are valuable to every dealer and related marine business. They earn your support every day, so be sure you’re a member.