The NMMA announced that Bill Watters was presented the Alan J. Freedman Memorial Leadership Award. Carl Blackwell and Joe Lewis received the Charles Chapman Award. The awards were presented at today’s industry breakfast during the Miami International Boat Show.
The Freedman Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the marine accessories industry through leadership, creativity and personal motivation, according to the announcement in today’s Currents e-newsletter.
“Bill Watters has been a driving force in the marine industry for decades,” said Buck Pegg, founder of Chaparral Boats, who presented the award. “He has never lost site of the importance of customers and employees at Syntec, and more often than not, his customers become vendor partners and trusted friends — a recipe for success. His service over the years to our industry has been paramount.”
Watters attended the University of Georgia and graduated with a degree in agricultural engineering. Upon graduation, he began working at his father’s yarn manufacturing company, Integrated Products. He began selling yarn to Sea Ray, and after attending Marketing Days at the Miami boat show and IMTEC in Chicago, Watters realized there was great potential for carpet sales in the marine industry.
In 1986, he and his brothers Tom, Thad and Joe formed Syntec Industries and began selling carpet to the marine industry. Syntec has been a major supplier to the marine industry ever since.
“Bill has always freely given his time and energy to the industry and has long been an ardent supporter of NMMA,” Pegg said. “He’s served in multiple roles on the MACD, NMMA, Grow Boating and MLA boards, including chairman of each. He’s also been AMD chair and vice chairperson, and a member of the Recreational Boating Leadership Council. To help expose boatbuilders to the best suppliers in the marine industry, Bill has also been a driving force behind IBEX, and has served as IBEX planning committee chairperson.”
Blackwell and Lewis received the Chapman Award for their leadership as Grow Boating president and chairman, respectively. The award recognizes individuals or groups within the marine industry who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of boating for the benefit of the recreational boating industry and boating public, according to Currents.
“Carl and Joe have devoted their entire careers to bettering the boating industry and community. Their shared vision and commitment have been instrumental in helping to grow and improve the future of recreational boating in this country,” said Watters, who presented the awards.
Blackwell, who joined NMMA in September 2003, has overseen 275 boat show marketing plans.
He was instrumental in the launch of the first Discover Boating national marketing campaign in 2006, as well as each of the subsequent 14 campaigns. In July 2011, Blackwell was appointed president of Grow Boating Inc. “His leadership at NMMA and industrywide marketing efforts have shifted and elevated how our entire industry markets boating to new and existing customers,” Watters said.
Joe Lewis, owner of Mount Dora Boating Center and Marina, has been active in boating and fishing organizations in and around his community for more than 30 years. “He has worked tirelessly on behalf of the industry, spending countless days away from his business at industry meetings, producing Discover Boating commercials and speaking on behalf of the campaign,” Watters said. “Joe is a leading example of putting the greater good ahead of one’s personal gain, which is why he is so deserving of the Charles Chapman Award.”
Lewis was chairman of Grow Boating from 2011 to 2019 and is currently serving as past chair. He served as chair of the Marine Industry Associations of Florida, Marine Industry Association of Central Florida and currently serves on the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation board. He’s been an industry representative on the Governor’s Boating Advisory Council for the state of Florida, and a regional director for the Marine Retailers of the Americas.