MTAs can Make a Strong Case to Lawmakers

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If any dealer has reservations about paying dues to their state or local marine trade association, the model action you’re about to read demonstrates why MTAs undertake efforts no dealer can successfully tackle alone.

In most states, government advisory groups have formed to develop plans to support businesses and move toward reopening the economy. As these state plans are formed, it’s critical for marine retailers, represented by their MTAs, be in the game, not simply to avoid being left out but to advocate for assistance.

The Lake Erie Marine Trades Association has always maintained a highly respected lobbying firm (another reason to support your MTA) in the state capitol. The following, crafted by Amanda Sines at Government Advantage Group, has been delivered to key lawmakers on the task force preparing such plans. While not everything in it is applicable to all situations, it’s printed in its entirety as a model of possible ideas and influences:

On behalf of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association and the Boating Associations of Ohio,thank you for convening a task force to study Ohio’s economic response to the covid-19 crisis.

On combined group letterhead

Our members are very concerned about their businesses’ ability to survive the economic shutdown in response to the covid-19 health crisis. We certainly understand the need to protect public health, and we believe the governor’s office is taking careful consideration when he is making these decisions and executive orders. However, we have an obligation to our employees, our families and our communities to advocate for our industry’s survival.

During the recession of early 2000s, the boating industry was nearly decimated. The businesses that survived were slow to see the type of recovery that other businesses enjoyed. We believe it is critical to advocate for our industry now, so our policy makers may shepherd creative solutions to mitigate the economic damage caused by covid-19.

We see opportunities that are not only beneficial to our businesses, but to Ohio as a whole. Most people across the county have had their travel plans canceled. Ohioans aren’t flying or renting beach time-shares in other states right now. When the fog lifts and people are allowed to recreate more freely, we want them to stay in Ohio. As you know, Ohio has many wonderful opportunities for fun and recreation, and what better way to enjoy Ohio’s amenities than on a boat. We know even after the immediate crisis is over, people will still need and want to keep their distance and avoid large crowds. You can do that on a boat. Lake Erie and Ohio’s inland lakes and rivers allow for robust social distances without sacrificing enjoyment.

We are proposing for your consideration a new tax policy for boats/watercraft. From our understanding you can buy a boat without paying sales tax in five states, and in seven states there is a cap on the amount of tax access on boat sales. Being able to advertise a sales tax “holiday” will help our members greatly by getting customers in the door when the “stay at home” restrictions are lifted. The state might see a small decrease in sales tax revenue. However, if we can’t sell our inventory and keep our employees on payroll, the state loses even more.

We also believe strongly that Ohioans purchasing a boat will incentivize them to stay in Ohio for the summer, as opposed to traveling out of state. Therefore, more of that recreation and discretionary spending stays in the state, as well. Ohio is going to need those recreation dollars to stay in this state to help stimulate our economy. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s 2018 data, boating has an annual economic impact of $3.4 billion in Ohio. We don’t want Ohio to lose that revenue!

Other ideas that could help our industry:

  • Enact HB 419 to allow and encourage more out-of-state customers’ patronage at Ohio marine businesses.
  • Enact HB 211 to allow our businesses to more efficiently clear out abandoned watercraft left in dealerships and boatyards to make room for paying customers.
  • The waterfront businesses and communities have been hit by a double whammy. Record high Lake Erie levels have flooded towns, streets and waterfront businesses. Exceptional efforts have been made to protect tourism and recreation during the high lake level period. The additional onslaught of economic bad news from a loss of jobs, tourist dollars and submerged waterfront businesses have put an additional strain on these water dependent communities. There needs to be a plan for waterfront rebuilding and resilience to help in their recovery. Marinas, beaches, hotels, waterfront homeowner associations and businesses need a recovery boost to rebuild their operations and retain their ability to exist. Travel and tourism are a $17 billion industry on Lake Erie.
  • Additionally, there could be an initiative to create a fiscal grant coordinator within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to help the outdoor recreation industry navigate federal and state relief that is made available. Most small business owners don’t have the resources to navigate those systems. If ODNR could help move to recover and promote outdoor recreation by supporting the industries it created, it could be a win-win situation. The industries survive and the outdoor recreational participants have options.

We know Ohio is going to have a monumental task getting through this economic crisis. Please don’t forget about the boating industry as you look at policies to assist Ohio businesses. As stated, many of my counterparts didn’t survive the recession of early 2000s. Please help us survive this crisis.

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