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MDCE 2017: Dealer and exhibitor totals set conference records

The MRAA says the number of dealers and exhibitors is at an all-time high for the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo. The conference runs through Wednesday.

The MRAA says the number of dealers and exhibitors is at an all-time high for the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo. The conference runs through Wednesday.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The numbers are in, and it’s the largest Marine Dealer Conference and Expo in the history of the event.

As of Tuesday morning 674 dealers had registered, said Liz Walz, vice president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, the nonprofit that produces the event. A final dealer attendance figure is not yet available because some people could decide to attend on Wednesday. A total of 641 attended last year.

“We have more dealers registered to be here with us this week than we’ve ever had at MDCE,” Walz said.

Not only is dealer attendance the highest ever, but 118 exhibitors, also a record number, are at the event, which runs through Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center.

“We have more exhibitors who are here to support the dealer community,” Walz told a packed crowd at the keynote opening speech. “Together we’ve created the most powerful MDCE community that we have ever had. Our agenda is designed to help you make more connections, give you tools and resources, help you build a stronger dealership with a higher-performing workforce and help you contribute to a healthy and viable boating industry.”

But the event is not about one week of learning, Walz emphasized. It’s about what the businesses can bring back and implement when they return. 

“That thinking that this is not just about one week, it comes from our listening to all of you,” Walz said. “It’s the stories you tell us about how we’re servicing you well and how we can do better.”

MRAA president Matt Gruhn said most boat dealerships are not big enough to have a full-time person or staff dedicated to training.

“One of the number one things about our jobs is we get deeply inspired by this subject matter,” Gruhn said.

The MRAA hears from dealers all the time that they want to improve but don’t have the staff.

“So it’s our role as the MRAA to do that,” Gruhn said.

The MRAA launched a new guide to dealership improvement as part of the endeavor.

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