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American Boating Congress gives industry chance to shape policy

From E-15 to water access to environmental regulations, what happens in Washington affects the boating industry more than ever these days.
One of the best chances to affect those policies is through the annual American Boating Congress, held May 5-7 in Washington, D.C. ABC is organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and several co-hosts, including Boating Industry.

This year, driven by 2013’s success, numerous industry partners have agreed to co-host ABC, joining the rallying-cry to strengthen the industry’s collective advocacy impact. As co-hosts, these organizations have committed themselves to growing the industry through public policy advocacy. Assembling from a wide variety of industry segments, these groups provide ongoing counsel and insight into what issues are of the most pressing interest to stakeholders and advocates, ensuring that ABC’s agenda will be packed with timely and relevant policy matters. Co-hosts will be attending ABC with representatives from their respective organizations, contributing to a dynamic dialogue during the event.

Co-hosts this year include the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association, Association of the Marina Industries, BoatUS, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, the National Marine Lenders Association, the National Marine Distributors Association, several state trade associations and many more.

An engaging lineup of event speakers will feature an influential group of policy specialists and industry authorities, as well as legislative and regulatory officials.

ABC provides those in the marine industry a chance to hear from and ask questions of policymakers and elected officials about key issues. Some of last year’s speakers included former vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.; and Rear Admiral Dean Lee, U.S. Coast Guard.

Everyone in the industry needs to be involved in government issues, says NMAA President Thom Dammrich.

Everyone in the industry needs to be involved in government issues, says NMAA President Thom Dammrich.

The conference will be hosted at the Liasion Capitol Hill hotel. Although this year’s agenda has not been fully set, major issues expected to be on the docket include updates on the Renewable Fuel Standard and other ethanol challenges, bills to repeal the second-home tax deduction for boats and ongoing efforts to restrict water access in national parks and other areas.

Networking receptions also offer an opportunity for one-on-one engagement with congressional representatives and staff and other decisionmakers. Finally, the NMMA government relations assists in scheduling hill visits with representatives and senators for those in the industry. Last year, industry representatives had more than 250 visits with members of Congress during ABC.

The more people that can attend ABC and make hill visits from the boating industry, the more ability the industry will have to make sure its voice is heard on the key issues, says NMMA President Thom Dammrich.

It’s too important to figure “somebody else will do it.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was among the elected officials at ABC 2013.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was among the elected officials at ABC 2013.

“One of the other things I tell people is that given the dramatic impact that Washington and state capitals have on your business, you wouldn’t leave it to your competitor to manage your production line,” Dammrich said of last year’s ABC. “You wouldn’t leave it to your competitor to do your marketing. You wouldn’t leave it to your competitor to manage your distribution. Why do you leave it to your competitor to manage government relations? You need to be involved.”

From the repeal of the luxury tax in the 1990s to victories on ethanol in the last year, industry efforts matter.

“When people get involved and we make Congress aware or we make regulators aware that what they’re doing is going to adversely impact the industry, the employment of 150,000 people or the enjoyment of 86 million Americans on the water, they listen,” Dammrich said. “We have succeeded and continue to succeed.”

Why is ABC important?

• You are the industry’s most effective advocate. No lobbyist is as influential as an employer from a member’s district or state.
• The recreational boating industry is an ecosystem; legislation or regulation that adversely impacts one segment of our industry will eventually adversely impact the entire industry.
• Attending ABC and going on Capitol Hill visits with others from your state is the best way to update your representatives on issues that affect your business and help them to understand your position when voting on issues that affect our industry.
• Elected officials listen when their constituents talk. Your voice is the most valuable asset. Forty-six of Congressional staff say that a constituent’s visit to a Member’s DC office has “a lot” of influence. Those constituents who make the effort to personally communicate with their Senators and Representatives are more influential than lobbyists and news editors.

Who attends ABC?

Are you a boating industry advocate? A marine manufacturer, dealer, business owner or stakeholder? Do you have a keen interest in recreational boating policy and regulatory matters? Then you should attend ABC.

What’s new this year?

• A welcome reception on the Potomac on the evening of May 5. An on-the-water networking opportunity for you and your industry peers to kick off the conference.
• A new “Effective Lobbying Techniques” session and improved issues briefing session.
• Scheduled hill visit opportunities will be available over the course of two days instead of one.
• Registration discounts for registering early and additional discounts when two or more attendees register from the same company.

How will I benefit from attending ABC?

• Meet elected officials to discuss your policy concerns.
• Speak directly with policymakers in your Congressional district.
• Learn more about the Congressional process and how you can stay involved year round.
• Hear from elected officials, policy makers, and distinguished speakers.
• Join your peers from all segments of the industry to ensure a healthy future for recreational boating.
• You don’t need to be an expert in government affairs. American Boating Congress supporters and staff will provide opportunities and tools, arming you with the information you need to make your visit to Capitol Hill impactful.

Look for more coverage of American Boating Congress in the April issue of Boating Industry and on BoatingIndustry.com.

For more information on ABC, visit www.nmma.org/government/abc/default.aspx.

Find breaking conference updates on Twitter @therealnmma and hashtag #abc2014. 


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