NAPLES, Fla. — The National Marine Electronics Association’s 2016 International Marine Electronics Conference & Expo held here this week drew a record 450 attendees with 50 exhibits, in-water boat demos and dozens of educational sessions.
“This has been a very successful event, with the best attendance of over 450 manufacturers, installers, technicians and business associates since the conference started over 20 years ago,” NMEA president and executive director Mark Reedenauer told Trade Only Today in a sit-down interview on Wednesday. “We sold out all 50 exhibit booths in mid-August and have added all-new education sessions focusing on technical installations and business operations, along with manufacturer-specific training sessions.”
Held at the Naples Grande Beach Resort, the event began Tuesday and wraps up today. All exhibitors are marine electronics manufacturers.
“The attendees are the buyers — the dealers, distributors, technicians and installers,” said Reedenauer. “It’s a small niche show because we want to keep it a manufacturer-based show.”
The show is held every other year in a Florida location, and on the west or east coast (in a variety of locations) during non-Florida years to “better serve the NMEA members in those areas,” said Reedenauer.
The NMEA has more than 650 members. Next year’s conference and expo will be held in Bellevue, Wash.
The 2012 show in Orlando drew 425 attendees. The event has consistently strengthened since the Great Recession, particularly since 2011, when the association began holding education sessions. Those sessions, which cover both technical and business aspects of the trade, really ramped up in 2012, said Reedenauer.
“Now the sessions account for about 50 percent of the show,” he said.
Twelve sessions were held each day, covering everything from digital switching to insurance to autopilot installations. And manufacturers held their own training sessions. Several manufacturers brought demo boats with their installed electronics.
This is the first year that the NMEA has coordinated with the American Boat and Yacht Council to hold education sessions for certification. The ABYC held its marine electrical certification course and the NMEA offered four different installer-training sessions.
I walked the floor Wednesday for a couple of hours. Exhibitors were hyped up, touting the strengths of the event.
“It’s one of our best opportunities to get together and network — to see what our collaboration technology partners are doing with us and also a chance to check out the competition,” Furuno national sales manager Matthew Wood said.
“It gives us an opportunity to get together with some of our dealers and distributors who are really some of the front-line guys. It’s a very motivated group of people who come to the show each year.”
Allen Schneider, senior vice president for Si-Tex Marine Electronics, said the NMEA event is ideal for showing the marine electronics distributors Si-Tex’s new product under development.
“We would not normally put these on display right now at a retail or public show,” Schneider said, pointing to the display screens of three new products from the company, including a new AIS (Automated Identification System) unit.
Jeff Davison, Humminbird senior director of product development, came to the show partly to grow the company’s saltwater market share. Humminbird has over the years made its mark in the freshwater market and has been a leader in sonar innovation, he said.
“We want the dealers to know that we are actively trying to get the consumer awareness developed in the saltwater market — that we have a full range of solutions for the saltwater market,” said Davison, who later made it a point to show me Humminbird’s saltwater catalog. “Five years ago you would not have seen a dedicated saltwater catalog from us.”
Tom Fischer, owner of Fischer Marine Boat and Yacht Sales, came to the show to research security systems. He plans to offer them to his customers as an option. Fischer also likes to educate his customers about boater safety, so he was checking out the personal locator beacons on display at the show.
The show was sponsored by about 20 companies, including major sponsors Simrad, Garmin, Gemeco, Great American Insurance Group, Nauticomp, FLIR/Raymarine, Bonnier, CWR Electronics and Soundings Trade Only.