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I had planned to write about another subject today . . . that was, until I read yesterday’s TradeOnlyToday and the report on NMMA’s survey of the fallout from BP’s oil spill. I was genuinely taken aback by some readers voicing negative comments about NMMA’s action. That bothered me all day, so I gotta blog about it!

I acknowledge up front that you might correctly assume I have a skewed view of what a marine trade association (MTA) should do for its members since I headed one for more than 30 years. On the other hand, all that experience makes it easy for me to recognize when an organization is doing what it should be doing. In that light, we should all tip the fedora to NMMA for undertaking the oil spill survey.

The fact is there’s only one rationale for a trade association . . . to help its members be more successful. There’s no other reason for it or its staff. To fulfil this role, the association must undertake a range of programs aimed at positively impacting its members’ marketing, education and influence on public policy issues. Summarily, an effective association is designed to accomplish for its members as a group what none could get done alone – hence the name, association.

While local and state MTA’s address local opportunities and issues, our industry’s two national MTAs are expected to shoulder a larger mission. For example, NMMA (the manufacturer’s association) and MRAA (the retailer’s organization) have been stalwart in representing and defending the marine industry on the national stage both for and against industry-impacting legislation and regulation. No individual manufacturer or dealer could do that alone. Or, in marketing, NMMA and MRAA teamed to develop the Discover Boating program to increase boating’s recognition nationally and grow long-term product demand. No manufacturer or dealer could do that alone. Or, NMMA and MRAA have advanced the industry’s products and knowledge through research, educational conferences and statistical studies . . . which brings me back to the oil survey.

If you missed the report yesterday, the survey involved 178 marine industry executives. It identified that more than half of the marine manufacturers have been negatively affected by the worst oil spill in our nation’s history. An estimated 11 percent of all marine products are normally sold in the Gulf areas affected, meaning the damaging effects are being endured by many well beyond the Gulf coast.

“I'm skeptical [sic] on the results of this study,” wrote one reader. Another wrote: “Is this really a good use of our NMMA dollars. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but the obvious." The answer is easy -- that’s exactly where NMMA should have put some dollars!

What should also be obvious is that, on an industry-wide level, this survey was needed to both document and focus strong attention on damages. NMMA saw the need and reacted. In doing so, it has bolstered the position of marine businesses at many levels – manufacturer, dealer, marina and others – that they have legitimate claims for payments from the $20 billion fund earmarked to compensate businesses for additional costs, lost sales and profits due to the spill. This is important ammunition for our affected businesses – and it also highlights why our industry’s MTA’s, at all levels, provide genuine services.

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