A house divided is wrong

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What’s happening in Charleston, S.C., is wrong. It’s wrong for the local dealers. It’s wrong for the trade association. It’s wrong for the area boaters.

I’m referring to the recent announcement that the South Carolina Marine Association (SCMA) will hold its 8th annual South Carolina In-Water Boat Show at St. Johns Yacht Harbor near downtown Charleston. For 5 years, the show had been held at Brittlebank Park in downtown Charleston. But the park’s land would flood if it rained so, in response to exhibitors, SCMA has moved the show to 3 different locations in the last 3 years to take advantage of new marinas just completed, but not yet fully occupied.

SCMA is working on a permanent home which, hopefully, will be locked in by 2008. Meanwhile, the Association has done a good job of finding a way to maintain an important show for the area.

But southern-style respect seems to have gone out with the Ashley River tide.

Along has come one of SCMA’s members, The City Marina Co. It announced it will produce a competing boat show the week after the SCMA show. According to SCMA president Rick Griffin and executive director Suzi DuRant, an August meeting with City Marina representatives to express the negative impacts the proposed show would have on SCMA was to be followed up with further discussions. No second meeting has been held to date.

The coastal South Carolina market is a good one, but it’s definitely not large enough to support two in-water boat shows in as many weeks. If the two shows are held as announced the best each will do is a split of the probable audience, meaning both shows will fail! With the boating industry continuing to experience declining sales (South Carolina included) it’s wrong to have a divided house in Charleston. It’s wrong to expect area dealers to support two failures. And it’s wrong to confuse the area’s boaters.

There’s even more at stake.

The SCMA is doing a very credible job of representing the marine industry in the public policy arena. This year, for example, it convinced the Legislature to pass a reduction in property taxes on boats. It’s the boat show proceeds that provide most of the funding for SCMA’s programs. It’s wrong for a member of SCMA to pursue a competing boat show that would, in effect, cripple the Association.

It’s time for The City Marina, under the leadership of Robbie Freeman, a highly respected Charleston businessman, to step up and bring the Charleston area marine industry together behind one event, the SCMA boat show.

It’s the right thing to do.

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