The industry conference you might not know about

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The 2017 MLA conference, an event that gathers marine industry leaders in small settings, took place at Fairmong Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

The 2017 MLA conference, an event that gathers marine industry leaders in small settings, took place at Fairmong Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

The Marine Leadership Alliance, which has been in existence since about 2010, held its annual conference at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif., April 22-24.

Those who haven’t heard of the industry event are probably not alone, Transhield Inc. executive vice president Matt Peat told Trade Only Today.

“It’s kind of a lower-key type event where everybody mixes and mingles in the evenings and then the during day, I’d say there’s some very heavy content — the kind of stuff where you need to get the slides and look at it all again later to really take it in,” said Peat.

The alliance used to be the Marine Design Resource Alliance, said Peat. After the recession, the group took a hiatus. When it reconvened, members decided to change direction.

“Instead of being a design resource, it really became more of a leadership resource and we thought the name needed to reflect that,” Peat said.

“It’s very relationship-building driven,” said ASA Electronics marine industry manager Matt Wood, who serves as the alliance secretary and will be conference chair at next year’s event, which will take place in Grand Cayman. “Sales, product and services isn’t part of the program at all. We have bylaws, we do not bring up business during this conference. It is not a selling conference at all.”

There are 16 members of the alliance, and about 30 people from those companies attend. The group also invites 24 boatbuilders.

Other industry heavyweights like National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich, and IBEX show producer Anne Dunbar, but that group is capped at 25, said Peat.

“We try to get people not to just speak about the marine industry, to challenge our builders on design, creativity, and liability,” said Merrimac Insurance president and MLA member Pat Duggan.

Speakers at this year’s event included strategy advisory services and solutions leader for The Palmer Group, Jim Turner; consultant Gair Maxwell, who has worked with Apple and Mitsubishi; web marketing guru Marcus Sheridan; and ITR Economics program economist Connor Lokar.

“We do limit boatbuilders and we don’t take any supplier that wants to throw money at us,” said Peat. “We don’t want competing companies.”

“Most of us have known each other for 20-plus years, and we don’t want to change that environment,” said Duggan. “It would change the whole event if we had more than 25 builders there. It’s designed to be small.”

“If there’s limited release on products, there’s always demand for products in that exclusive field,” said Peat. “We’re not trying to create that; if we over-dilute it and get 35 or 40 boatbuilders and bunch of suppliers, how is it any different from anything else out there? We want speakers to be able to walk the room, and have opportunity to spend time with everyone in the room.”

Invitations for next year’s event will be issued in November. 

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