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The ABCs of Attending ABC

Republicans, Democrats, Independents. If they’re lawmakers living in The Twilight Zone of Washington, D.C., they all claim they want to help small businesses. Cue your forehead slap.

Let’s face it — there are fundamental facts that make those claims more lip service than reality unless we keep the pressure on. And that’s why it’s important for dealers to be actively lobbying for their best interests. If they don’t, they can expect … well, lip service, especially this year with congressional elections coming.

The American Boating Congress is set for May 11-13 in Washington. It shines a spotlight on the need for dealers, as part of the total marine industry effort, to be engaged in lobbying for favorable public policy decisions by lawmakers and regulators. Lawmakers usually take the road that gives big business, with big lobbyists touting even bigger bucks, the big advantages.

Our industry has professional lobbyists, of course. Most notable are those from the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. They do a solid job on legislative and regulatory fronts despite the fact that our industry is certainly not considered among the biggies. Sadly, I believe some in our industry tend to think that because we have lobbyists that they’ll “handle it,” and our work is done when we pay our association dues.

For the majority of businesses in our industry, builders and retailers alike, the failing is to assume we don’t have to do more. Dealers must become partners with lobbyists and do more together to reach success. If there is one thing dealers and most manufacturers have in common, it’s that we have far less ability than the big corporations to politically affect what happens to us, particularly on the federal level.

But we are certainly not powerless. Standing up as a united group to accomplish something for our industry is exactly what the ABC is all about. Certainly, the leadership of all the regional marine trades associations should be attending, along with as many dealers as possible. But if going to ABC is just not possible, there’s still a need for dealers to lobby for boating issues.

Every dealer should be willing to lobby their two senators and one district representative in Congress to advance industry positions. Truth is, the invention of email has made it incredibly easy to lobby; I do it regularly and get responses back. I respond whenever I receive a call to action from our industry’s legislative teams to contact my congressional reps. It takes very little time, it’s important, and it will make a difference.

This year’s ABC agenda boasts a great lineup of timely subjects:

Policy Priorities on Capitol Hill Insights into pressing policy matters and what they mean for the boating industry

Economic Briefing with Curtis Dubay, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Looking ahead at business challenges that include inflation, supply-chain issues and workforce shortages

Advocacy State of Play and Hill Meetings 101 Insight into the industry's advocacy gains and what's ahead

Political and Practical Realities of Electrification and Next Generation Technologies A look at the impact of shifting climate policies and how the industry is responding, among other topics.

Do our lobbying efforts work? Yes, and often. For example, President Biden just signed into law the fiscal year 2022 appropriation bills, which include a vast majority of the boating industry’s funding priorities and take into account funding for the Department of Commerce and Department of the Interior, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers.

Included in the $1.5 trillion spending package are important programs the industry lobbied for that benefit the Great Lakes, the Everglades, marine sanctuaries, and the broader $689 outdoor recreation economy of which boating and fishing is the No. 1 contributor across 39 states and D.C.

Join fellow stakeholders at ABC, the industry’s preeminent advocacy event, which includes discussions with members of Congress, administration officials, timely political and policy updates, and much more.

Click here for details.

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