WASHINGTON, D.C. - The American Boating Congress wrapped up Thursday, with organizers and attendees saying the event was once again a success.
"ABC went extremely well. The feedback has been very positive," Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which organizes the event, told Soundings Trade Only. "I'm very happy with the event, but I really wish we had three or four times as many people out here."
About 175 people attended. More than 100 visits were made by attendees to congressional offices Thursday as industry officials lobbied to ensure that their representatives know the important issues facing the boating business.
"It absolutely makes a difference," Kris Carroll, president of Grady-White, told Soundings Trade Only during ABC. "We find [our legislators] to be very supportive. They know our issues."
The industry's unofficial lobbyists spoke with members of Congress about issues ranging from ethanol and proposals to federally mandate life-jacket wear to tax issues, including a bill recently introduced that would amend a tax provision that allows boat owners to write off their mortgage interest payments if they classify their boats as second homes.
"Every year, we just never know where issues are coming from and you've got to be at the table and have relationships on a consistent basis," Dammrich said. "You can't just go running to Capitol Hill when you've got a problem.
"There are so many significant issues that impact the businesses in the recreational boating industry," he added. "They ought to be here. They ought to be involved with us in making sure none of these bad things happen."
Before heading out to the Hill, attendees spent Thursday morning in sessions with Congressional Boating Caucus leaders; Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, director of prevention policy for the Coast Guard; Greg Ip, economics editor of The Economist; and others.
Caucus co-chairwoman Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., told the audience about the issues she saw as vital to the industry: tax reform, ensuring dredging is done when and where it's needed, tackling invasive species and promoting programs that improve water quality.
Saying she is "painfully aware" of what the economy is doing to the industry, Miller added, "I know that the boating industry is one that perseveres."
Caucus co-chairman Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., also spoke of the importance of the marine industry.
"What you do for our economy is incredibly important," he said. "You are one of the engines of this economy."
Donnelly praised attendees for coming to ABC, saying it was vitally important for Congress to know about the boating industry.
"It's really important for us to know who you are," he said. "The most powerful advocate you have for your business is you. You are the guys we listen to."
See the June issue of Soundings Trade Only for more about the American Boating Congress.
— Beth Rosenberg