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The decision by NMMA’s Boat Manufacturers Board to end the nearly two years of redirecting 85 percent of the Grow Boating engine horsepower assessments was a good one. But, the choice to simply end any assessments for the next six months was not. (Note: The remaining 15 percent will continue to be assessed and used to support the greatly reduced but ongoing Discover Boating Internet campaign.)
The BMD action came in response to MRAA’s request to end the redirection, which had really proven controversial, if not discordant, since October 2008. But the MRAA’s request clearly did not call for abandoning the assessments. Rather, it advocated the 85 percent start going back into the Discover Boating program fund under the direction of the Grow Boating Board. That Board is made up of members from both the retail and manufacturing segments.

Because that didn’t logically happen, there’s rising concern that some manufacturers and/or dealers could oppose restarting the assessments six months from now. That would be the worst possible outcome, clearly counter productive to a sales recovery we’re all expecting and a good future we must invest in.

Upon further reflection, however, the BMD decision will actually have a limited negative impact. After all, industry sales are still very depressed. Moreover, during the last three months of the six-month period, not many boats are shipped at all. Historically, it’s always been the lowest quarter for Grow Boating assessments. So, the fact is there’s not a lot of money that won’t be collected, albeit some would be better than none!

Looking forward, then, there are solid positives in all this, too. For example, a task force has already begun work on developing a new DB plan and strategy and is in the process of selecting a new marketing agency for the campaign. The expectation is the new agency will present plans at meetings at IBEX in late September. They will include a proposed budget and that will be the basis for decisions about what level of assessments will be needed starting next January. Concurrently, a second task force has been established to review the funding method for the program, according to members of the Grow Boating Board.

The bottom line: As a practical matter, it’s now not likely a new, much-needed national DB campaign can begin much before 2012 because the funding will not be there for a major push next year. But, the engine horsepower funding mechanism remains solidly in place and, while being appropriately reviewed by a task force, it will likely be reported out as still the least complicated and best funding method.

Once again, it’s time for the industry to come together -- dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and associations -- as we did in 2004-05 and embrace a long range commitment to again aggressively raise the national image of boating as the recreation of choice. Beginning now, the rebirth of the national DB campaign must be kept in clear, constant focus, and nothing and no one should be allowed to impede its new beginning.

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