IMBC 2014: Minnesota marina honored in best-ideas contest

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FORT LAUDERDALE — Roxanne Rockvam of the family-owned Rockvam Boat Yards on Lake Minnetonka, Minn., won the International Marina & Boatyard Conference’s first best ideas contest on Thursday.

Rockvam developed an online reservation system that enabled customers to make last-minute pontoon boat reservations on Sundays.

Customers previously could only make reservations and sign rental contracts remotely by fax, but because most people don’t have fax machines at home they risked being unable to rent a boat if they came to the marina on Sundays without a reservation.

“Our sales went up 28 percent” after adopting the online reservation system, Rockvam said.

Founded in 1989, Rockvam has 24 pontoons for rent at its marina in Spring Park, Minn.

Overall, marina and boatyard operators saw business improve last year from 2012, according to an industry survey done by the Association of Marina Industries and Marina Dock Age magazine.

The October survey elicited responses from 260 marinas and boatyards.

Fifty-four percent said their leased slip revenue improved, compared with 18 percent who said it declined (the rest said revenue stayed about the same).

Forty-six percent said transient slip revenue went up, 21 percent said it went down and 33 percent said it stayed the same. Forty-eight percent reported that boat maintenance and repair revenue was up, 17 percent said it was down and the rest of the businesses said it stayed the same.

Some 50.5 percent said used-boat sales were up and 16 percent said they were down. Fifty-three percent said new-boat sales had increased and 30.5 percent said they decreased. The rest of the companies said sales in both categories remained the same.

“We are seeing our numbers climb back up, though they were never as bad as the rest of the industry,” the AMI’s Wendy Larimer said.

She noted, too, that marinas are getting older (69 percent are more than 25 years old and 36 percent are more than 45 years old). A lot of the marinas and boatyards remain family-owned (34 percent), she said, “which goes hand in hand with how old they are.”

In a breakout session on best management practices, Brenda Leonard, manager of Florida’s Clean Marina program, said the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas) has developed best management practices for certification as a Clean and Resilient Marina, which is one that not only meets clean marina criteria, but also siting, design, management and construction criteria for weathering hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, hazardous material spills and other emergencies.

No marina or boatyard now has the designation, she said. The Clean and Resilient Marina Guidebook is available at www.gulfofmexicoalliance.org.

“We want to standardize practices across the Gulf states,” Leonard said.

The conference continues today at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.

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