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What do I get for my dues?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? That assumes, in the first place, you are already a member of a national and/or state marine trade association.

I remember being asked that question many times during the 34 years I was privileged to be president of the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. “So glad you asked,” I would always respond — and I was. Because it gave me the chance to highlight all the things the association did for its members.

I would say: “My short answer is [that] we do things that are important for your business that would be very hard for you to do for yourself. The longer answer includes: we give you legislative representation in the state capitol; we are your advocate; we negotiate directly with the state regulatory agencies; we offer educational seminars; bring in meeting speakers; provide information in newsletters; organize special community events to promote boating in the market; fund a college scholarship program available to your employees and their kids; and, of course, produce boat shows with member discounts that give you face-to-face access to thousands of prospects, to name just a few benefits.”

Frankly, it’s probably the latter (boat shows) that prompts today’s blog, what with the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association’s Cedar Point In-Water Boat Show opening today and the Michigan Boating Industries Association’s Boating and Outdoor Festival opening next weekend, among other coming fall shows. Both shows are reportedly up in exhibit space from a year ago and are looking for increased attendance. Neither of these events that benefit their members would likely exist if not for the associations.

However, coming back to the question of what members get for their association dues, I might have missed the most important answer. It’s the intangible and ephemeral things that are accomplished that can add up to real dollars in the businesses of the members. It’s the things most members never see, the things that the association makes sure never happen that alone are worth every dollar in dues. Tax increases that didn’t happen. Regulations that disappeared. Permits that speedily arrived. Policies affecting boaters that turned positive. And all the bad things associations make sure never come to pass.

Let’s face it. Whether we’re talking about our two national associations — the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas — or our many state and local marine trades associations, they share one thing in common: They bring people together to effect change that positively impacts our businesses, our employees and our customers.

That’s reason enough that everyone in this industry should be a member of an appropriate trade association. Then you can rest assured that what you’ll get for your dues is a genuine bargain.

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