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ABC 2016: Industry hits Capitol Hill in lobbying effort

Stakeholders said their preparation for the meetings boosted their confidence.
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Industry members met in strategy sessions before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs.

Industry members met in strategy sessions before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staffs.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some boating industry stakeholders coming off Capitol Hill after their visits with lawmakers on Tuesday and Wednesday told Trade Only Today they felt their voices were heard on topics such as ethanol, workforce development and deferred importation.

“It was a very successful trip and invigorating to see the whole political process in action,” Florida Yacht Brokers Association executive director Cynthia Sailor told Trade Only this morning. “We certainly felt like we made a difference and succeeded in our goals.”

Stakeholders said their preparation for the meetings boosted their confidence. For the first time, stakeholders targeting specific states met for round-table discussions before the Hill visits to strategize. They prioritized their topics and identified those that should — and should not — be brought to the attention of lawmakers.

Sailor was part of a large group that met with several lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. They met with him for 30 minutes on Wednesday afternoon. The association’s goal was to garner more support for the deferred importation legislation currently introduced under HR 4065. Passage of this bill would allow sellers of foreign-flagged boats to defer payment of the import duty until the time of sale rather than upon entry into U.S. waters, as is now the case.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., met Wednesday with stakeholders who pushed the marine industry agenda. Shown in the background is Nicole Vasilaros, vice president of federal and legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., met Wednesday with stakeholders who pushed the marine industry agenda. Shown in the background is Nicole Vasilaros, vice president of federal and legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“[Rubio] seemed to be very in touch with the issues relating to each group participating in our meeting,” Sailor said. “And he seemed very amenable to the changes to our deferred importation initiative, although he made no formal commitment during the meeting.”

The American Boating Congress is a three-day legislative conference where the industry, in a united effort, formulates and lobbies for public policy positions on issues that affect marine businesses. More than 250 recreational boating industry stakeholders — an all-time high — gathered in Washington, D.C., from Monday through Wednesday.

The strategy meetings before the visits were a big help, said MaryKate Wood, owner and president of Wake WorX, which sells Aquatic Invasive Species water filtration for boats. “I felt better prepared than in previous years. We had a list of topics to avoid with the various offices.”

Wood was part of a California team that met with staff members from the offices of U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters, a Republican who represents California’s 45th District, and Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents the state’s 4th District.

“They were very open to hearing why we were there,” she said. “They were patient and respectful. McClintock seemed to be the most interested.”

Wood chose California because getting her product established there has been tough due to that state’s many government agencies.

Florida team member Scott Lewit, president of Structural Composites in Melbourne, said his meetings went well. “I felt like we made a lot of traction on the ethanol front,” he said. “I think more people are interested in actually repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Workforce development also caught the attention of lawmakers, said Lewit.

“The focus is turning to institutions and colleges and retraining people without jobs for marine technical jobs involving such technologies as CAD (computer-aided design). We have all these people who are out of work and all these job openings [in the marine industry], but they’re going to have to be retrained.”

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