NMMA prepares for robust American Boating Congress

The marine industry has begun to focus on preparations for the American Boating Congress this spring.
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Now that the boat shows in Miami have concluded, the marine industry has begun to focus on preparations for the American Boating Congress this spring.

“It’s an election year and there’s a lot of momentum with certain issues and we want to take advantage of that,” NMMA vice president of federal and legal affairs Nicole Vasilaros told Trade Only Today on Tuesday.

“I don’t know of anyone who has gone to ABC and has not gotten something out of it. Right now we are developing an agenda, gathering a list of speakers and stepping up our promotion of the event and looking for sponsors.”

ABC will be held from May 9-11 at the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel.

Vasilaros and other ABC organizers from the National Marine Manufacturers Association Tuesday held an organizational conference call with ABC co-hosts. There are about 30, including the Florida Yacht Brokers Association, the Association of Marina Industries, the American Sportfishing Association and Soundings Trade Only.

This year, ABC organizers are concentrating on uniting parties from the same geographic area to lobby on Capitol Hill, said Vasilaros. For example, “We might bring together four participants from Florida — a broker, a manufacturer, a dealer and a marine trades association member” to home in on state-specific issues, she said.

Event organizers continue to collaborate with other industry organizations to strengthen the overall voice of the marine industry in Washington, said Vasilaros.

"We try every year to make this a more comprehensive event,” she said, mentioning that the ASA will hold its government affairs committee meeting during ABC. “We’re trying to get other industry trade associations to hold their government relations meetings at ABC. It is all an effort to make sure we reach the broadest audience for greater impact on Capitol Hill.”

NMMA organizers highlighted the topics that will be focused on during "issue briefings," including trade, fishing, ethanol, the Water Resources Development Act (which covers dredging and navigation), invasive species and boater access to federal waterways. This year the NMMA has added a new briefing — workforce development, which will focus on manufacturer, dealer and repair workforce issues, including the challenges of growing a skilled workforce in the marine industry.

Issue briefings are 30-minute discussions led by a panel of experts and interested parties. “The briefings really get into the weeds of the issue and identify what participants can say to have an influence with lawmakers,” said Vasilaros. “They prepare people to engage on the topic.”

The ethanol panel, for instance, might consist of other advocates, such as the outdoor power industry, she said.

Conference call participants suggested other subjects for issue briefings, such as state pesticide licensing and deferred importation.

The keynote speakers will be Fox & Friends Weekend anchor Tucker Carlson and CNN commentator Paul Begala. U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., is also speaking.

Other potential speakers include the director of the National Parks Service, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. “We try to get a mix of elected and government agency officials,” said Vasilaros.

NMMA senior public relations manager for government relations Lauren Dunn said promotional efforts will ramp up in about a month.

“In late March and early April we will be trying to develop initial press releases about co-hosts and early agenda issues,” said Dunn. “It’s important to make sure your co-host forms are turned in so you can be included in the press materials.”

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