Record-setting IMBC wraps up today

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The largest-ever International Marina & Boatyard Conference wraps up today in Tampa, Fla., setting attendance records and setting a positive tone as the industry heads into 2010.

"Most of the feedback I've gotten is good," says Jim Frye, chairman and president of the Association of Marina Industries, which produces the conference. "They're having good conversations about solid sales, and folks are interacting with the exhibitors. I think as long as [the economy] doesn't get appreciably worse, our segment will remain pretty steady throughout the next year."

Attendance was closing in on 800 as of late yesterday afternoon, says IMBC coordinator Rachel LaMarre.

"We're really excited," she said. "The registration desk has been swamped. They just keep coming and coming."

Last year, the event drew 650 attendees, says LaMarre. There are 145 exhibitors and 127 companies represented at this year's three-day event.

"The exhibitors are coming because they've identified this as the place to meet the most qualified leads in the industry," says Frye. "It's one thing to have folks walking around on the floor, and it's another thing to have folks walking around who are really interested in doing the purchasing and being the decision makers in that purchasing."

The conference's in-depth educational programs included 15 seminars on such topics as how to retain customers, the legalities of hurricane preparation, building green on the water, and how to secure grants for marina upgrades. In the closing session tonight, Bill Yeargin, president and CEO Correct Craft, builder of Nautique ski and wakeboard boats, will talk about how global trends could impact marina businesses.

Luxury marina developer Andrew Farkas, founder and president of Island Global Yachting, delivered the keynote seminar Thursday.

"Mr. Farkas suggested we hadn't hit the bottom, but I think he was talking more globally, not necessarily our segment," says Frye. "The marina segment has not been hurt as dramatically as manufacturers and boat sales."

- Chris Landry

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