This year’s American Boating Congress, an event that brings together marine industry voices to advocate on behalf of the boating and fishing industries, open today and runs through Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
The event includes several tracks, meetings, panel discussions, speakers and just head-to-head discussion with elected leaders in the nation’s capital. More than 250 business leaders from across the industry are expected to attend.
Former NBC “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory will serve as keynote speaker for the event. Other speakers will include U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.); U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.); Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado; Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Thomas; and Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Once thought of as a manufacturers’ initiative, the ABC has grown to include the many facets that make up the recreational boating industry, and it’s important for the industry to speak in a unified voice, advocates say.
During the three-day event stakeholders will communicate on Capitol Hill the significance of the industry’s $121 billion annual direct, indirect and induced economic impact, in addition to the issues facing recreational boating. The industry supports more than 650,000 direct and indirect jobs and nearly 35,000 businesses nationwide.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association, which has traditionally helped to spearhead the initiative, has worked to bring in groups and businesses as ABC co-sponsors — an effort to level the playing field and make the event open to everyone with a stake in recreational boating and fishing.
“Whether it’s that boating is a uniquely American manufacturing industry with 95 percent of boats sold in the U.S., made in the U.S. or the sheer number of jobs and small busineses supported by boating, we have an important story to tell,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement. “Sharing our story on Capitol Hill during ABC is a critical element of our industry’s advocacy efforts and will go a long way toward an accurate understanding of the middle-class Americans creating a positive impact across the country.”
Some hot topics include changing or repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard, which will continue to increase the concentration of ethanol in the overall gasoline supply; and reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the law that governs saltwater fishing and fish stocks, to more directly address recreational fishing.
In preparation for the event, Mercury Marine teamed up with Wired2Fish to create a video discussing the negative effects E15 has on marine outboard engines.
This year, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas is putting together a panel discussion to address dealer issues, says Will Higgins, the group’s new lobbyist.
“The people and board members I’ve talked to have been very excited about it,” he told Trade Only. “Dealers are becoming more aware of the opportunity they really have to get in touch with their representatives and really be heard. That’s one of the most important things that elected representatives can see — an actual business person from their district coming in and saying, ‘This affects me, and my business, and the jobs I can create.’ ”
“The American Boating Congress is my favorite industry event of the year,” Marcia Kull, vice president of marine sales for Volvo Penta and a longtime participant in ABC, told Trade Only. “It is a time when all of us come together as leaders to focus on the business of boating and overcoming common barriers.”