Rhode Island holds marine industry media tour

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A media tour today led by the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. is designed to spread the word about the state’s marine industry.

The tour will include all facets of the industry in Rhode Island, from composite production to marinas to boatbuilders.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee is set to talk to reporters at Hall Spars & Rigging about composite technology, and Goetz Boats’ chief technology officer, Eric Goetz, will talk about creative ways to stay busy during a downturn — such as the candy-apple red, 40-foot Christmas ball the company is building for a park installation in the Midwest.

“We really feel Rhode Island is the go-to place for recreational boaters to go to look for best practices and innovations in the industry,” association CEO Wendy Mackie told Soundings Trade Only. “We think our state is set up for recreational boaters. With no sales taxes on recreational boats, being able to purchase and store a boat here tax-free is a huge perk for people.”

Rhode Island saw a shrinkage of the marine industry like the rest of the country, but it is stabilizing now and regrowing, said Paul Harden, head of marine trades work force development for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp.

Now the state is seeing a shift from boatbuilding to more of the marine service sector, which has been more profitable and stable.

“One of the long-term goals is hopefully to encourage people to bring their boats to Rhode Island and keep them here, as well as attract companies looking to expand in Rhode Island,” Harden told Trade Only. “One of Rhode Island’s huge advantages is that we’ve got the full supply chain around boatbuilding and service here. We’ve got companies that just do interiors of yachts or other very specific areas that aren’t available in other parts of the country.”

A possible indicator of how many boaters are attracted by the tax laws in Rhode Island is the percentage of non-residents in marinas, Harden said. Some marina owners say that as many as 40 to 50 percent of those who rent slips are non-residents.

“If someone keeps a boat here, it’s like getting an annuity,” Harden said. “You’re getting the dockage, the storage, the accessories sales, the owners are going out to restaurants and stores here in Rhode Island — it’s an ongoing stream of revenue, it’s not just a one-time deal.”

— Reagan Haynes

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