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Random notes of good news and ideas

- Had occasion to visit the Columbus (Ohio) Sports, Vacation & Boat Show over the weekend and saw clever signs strategically placed around Jim Reed’s Spend-A-Day Marina exhibit (Sea Ray, JC & Bennington). The bold yellow and black-lettered signs read: “CAUTION – LIFESTYLE MAY BECOME ADDICTIVE” adjacent to good boating action pictures. That’s the kind of message we need to project - worth copying!

- Meanwhile, at Bruce Rutherford’s Sizzle Marine display (Stingray, Tracker, Monterey, Tahoe, Sun Tracker, Sea Doo) it was balloon arches, colorful illuminated signs and a summer atmosphere – just the right image for a cold, snowy Ohio winter weekend. Making visitors “think” summer by the atmosphere created in the exhibit should be a high priority for every dealer in a winter show.

- Speaking of good signs, the Columbus show also featured a large number of signs and banners, all from the industry’s Discover Boating campaign including “Welcome to the Water” signs liberally hung around the show. These signs and banners are first class with eye-catching graphics. What’s more, any dealer can get them and a lot more from the Discover Boating program. Frankly, it escapes me why any dealer would not take advantage of the things offered, ranging from window clings to videos, in the Discover Boating program. Go to: www.growboating.org Much of it is free, too!

- Kudos to the recreational fishermen in California who aren’t taking the closing of boater access to saltwater “protection zones” lying down. According to the AuCoin Report, the California Court of Appeals has given the go-ahead for anglers to appeal the new state regulations blocking access to these zones. The no-access zones are part of regulations resulting from the controversial Marine Life Protection Act. The Coastside Fishing Club filed the appeal while the California Fish & Game Commission unsuccessfully fought it.

- The economic news is encouraging, too. Median household income rose during the last four months of 2011, up from $49,434 to $51,413 or 4 percent. That’s the biggest jump since the recession started in 2007. In addition, the recent drop in unemployment claims (358,000) came in under the 370,000 expected, signaling that the health of the labor market is improving as is the economy, albeit slow. There’s more: Auto sales jumped to 12.8 million last year, best since 2008. Bankruptcy filings fell last year for the first time in six years. Factory outputs grew in December at the fastest rate since last June. Retailers collectively reported a 3.5 percent increase in December for stores open more than 1 year. More purchases went on credit cards indicating consumers are becoming more confident to spend more. And, better than expected gains in housing were reported due to low mortgage rates. It’s all news in the right direction.

- Good news, maybe! According to MRAA’s Washington lobbyist, Larry Innis, the re-authorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (Wallop-Breaux) and the unfreezing of the Harbor Maintenance Fund, both positives for the boating and fishing industries, is contained in H.R. 7. That bill is the House version of a broad energy and infrastructure act and is likely to be up for a floor vote in the House this week. On the other hand, the Senate version does not contain the Sport Fish Reauthorization. But, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the Sport Fish language will be offered on the Senate floor. That said, however, while there aren’t obvious disagreements over the Sport Fish provisions, there are major problems between the House and Senate versions in other areas of this bill. “It does not look too positive for the two versions to be reconciled in conference,” says Innis. “The major difference is in the money being authorized for highway projects with the Senate authorizing about $250 billion more than the House. Both sides are dug in. So, a short term re-authorization at previous funding levels for all transportation funds seems probable at this moment."

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