MAATS opens on an upbeat note in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — The Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show opened here this morning, and organizers say this year's event, held in conjunction with ICAST, should be a success.

"(Attendees) are excited to get into their meetings and get their business done," said Kathleen Clickett, manager of trade events for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which owns and manages the show.

Clickett said there are 293 exhibitors in Las Vegas, which is down from last year. However, that group includes 80 new companies.

"We've had some cutbacks, but they're still here," she said. "We're extremely happy" with the turnout.

The number of non-exhibiting attendees was not immediately available, because registrations are still coming in, Clickett said.

Attendees were welcomed to MAATS Tuesday night at a reception featuring a silent auction. All money raised through the auction will benefit the industry's Grow Boating Initiative.

New-product showcases, along with pre-scheduled buyer-supplier meetings, were the first order of business this morning. The show floor opened this afternoon.

For the first time, the exhibit hall is open between MAATS and ICAST, the fishing industry trade show being held simultaneously.

This year's MAATS also features a record number of boat dealers in attendance, a push that will be continued next year when the show moves to Orlando, Fla.

Also this year, attendees may take advantage of access to free corporate services, including Web and public relations providers and those who deal with shipping and packaging.

MAATS runs through Friday.

MAATS follows on the heels of the National Marine Distributors Association's Sales, Training, Education and Purchasing Conference, which took place Monday and Tuesday.

"We're pleased with how the event worked and look forward to next year," said Nancy Cueroni, executive director of the NMDA.

More than 300 people attended S.T.E.P., a figure that is on par with last year, she said. Attendees included representatives from 20 distributors, 63 manufacturing firms and about 30 manufacturer rep firms.

Those who participated had good things to say.

"It's a very good value," said Joe Clemons, of Ohio-based Vita Plate Distributing.

Clemons said his business has been "a little soft," in part because of gas prices and bad weather in his part of the country.

Bruce Hamer, of Toronto-based C.C. Marine Distributors, said business is better for him, as Canada is not experiencing the same economic problems as the U.S.

"We're having a good year," he said. "We're very fortunate."

Hamer said the S.T.E.P. conference was a success for his company.

"It's excellent," he said of the conference. "It's time well spent; it's very focused.”

Next year's S.T.E.P. event also will take place in Orlando.

 — Beth Rosenberg
Staff writer

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