Our voices must be heard

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The National Marine Manufacturers Association is still working on its lineup of speakers for the American Boating Congress in May, but at this early stage this much is known: The 2009 ABC will be an abbreviated one.

That seems to be a common thread at industry events and boat shows these days. Show producers have cut back on the dates and the parties, while exhibitors are scaling back on the size of their displays and the number of people they bring to staff it. “Doing more with less” is the mantra of the day.

It reminds me of a budgeting rule of thumb I heard years ago from a small-town elected official: There are things we must do, things we should do, and things that are nice to do. In a tough economy, the nice-to-do list is the first to go.

This year’s ABC has been shortened from three days to two, and there’s no gala dinner with a private performance from the Capital Steps. Gone are the private Washington, D.C., tours for NMMA members, spouses and the press. I’ll admit, I have fond memories of those special tours of the Capitol, Supreme Court, and the various press rooms and news studios.

Those were all nice benefits of the annual D.C. trip, though not the main purpose of the event, of course. And despite the tough business climate and tightening budgets, staying in the game is still on the list of must-dos. Dealers and manufacturers may be scaling back on boat show displays, but the savvy ones realize they still must have a presence.

The same is true for the American Boating Congress. Change is in the air in our nation’s capital, and turmoil is everywhere as the global economic mess drags on. Marine businesses need to make sure their voices are heard amongst the other constituents vying for a piece of the stimulus pie. And we need to remain vigilant and make sure no one tries to sneak in a luxury tax or other anti-business policy in the name of closing budget shortfalls.

Our voices are more likely to be heard and remembered if the message is delivered in person.

— Melanie Winters
Associate editor
m.winters@tradeonlytoday.com

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