FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Recognizing the significant contribution to the local, regional and statewide economy and resulting jobs generation, several of the marine industry’s leading proponents came together on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, to provide an upbeat reading and enthusiastic outlook for Fort Lauderdale and the South Florida region based on rebounding activity in the boating and yachting sectors. Recovery of the overall U.S. and global economies, increased spending on boats, equipment, supplies and services in Florida, and growing demand for workers in the marine sector are signs that the industry is in a growth mode.
Appearing at the Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center were Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, Executive Director of Marine Industries Association of South Florida Philip Purcell, Chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media (AIM) Skip Zimbalist, and Owner of National Marine Suppliers Dean du Toit.
Mayor Seiler has often cited the city’s key industries as tourism, real estate development and boating and yachting, each dependent on the other for growth and success. He emphasized that the reflection of this success is seen in related jobs and the livelihoods of families supported by these jobs. The added stimulus of having the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show gives special recognition to and promotes the region to the global yachting market which in turn feeds spending and jobs. The Super Bowl may travel to different cities, but Fort Lauderdale has its equivalent every year. Studies estimate 1,500 large yachts visit the city annually with each having an economic impact of $488,000 while they’re in port. Seiler pledged to continue keeping the city and its government focused on the needs of the industry and to help with projects to insure its growth and proclaimed June 11, 2014 the first Marine Industry Day in the history of the City.
Purcell pointed to the marine industry’s 107,000 jobs and 5,500 businesses and generation of nearly $9 billion in revenue in the region, the bulk of which is based in the Tri-County area. Of those jobs 90,000 are reported in Broward County. He noted that this data was collected in 2010, and a new study has been authorized by the MIASF board engaging Thomas J. Murray & Associates to conduct it. Purcell also reported currently 264 marine job openings on Career Resource Broward, many of which represent salaries at the $50,000 and above level which should attract new workers and their families to the region.
Nationwide, the recreational boating industry saw growth in 2013, generating $36.7 billion in retail expenditures (new and pre-owned boats and engines, trailers, accessories and services), a 3.2% increase from 2012. Florida led the nation with sales of new powerboat, motor, trailer and accessories totaling $1.9 billion, up 16%. Findings are part of NMMA’s U.S. Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract released June 1.
The association is predicting continued momentum with an additional 5 to 7% national increase in retail sales of new boats in 2014.
Among other active enthusiast holdings, AIM owns Show Management which produces the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Zimbalist said the 2013 event staged last October was the biggest in its 54-year history. Record revenues were boosted by healthy exhibitor turnout and more product on display. Eleven percent of visitors to the show are international guests, he noted, and many return to use the docks and hire local talent to maintain their yachts and to consider bringing their operations to south Florida. Efforts to maintain dredging and facilities such as the Convention Center and expand dockage all feed not only the Show, but the year-round business of boating, Zimbalist noted.
National Marine Suppliers Dean du Toit offered a view of his operation which illustrates the broad jobs impact of servicing the yachting sector. The firm has worked with owners, captains, crew, and management companies for over 20 years. Du Toit suggests one of his goals is to bring boats to South Florida, and he is working with MIASF to do this. He said they are seeing a current increase in the number of boats arriving in Fort Lauderdale. With a staff of 130, all specialists in their fields, and a facility over 100,000 square feet, they now serve the largest vessels which have grown well beyond 200-feet in length. Jobs span logistics of dockage and fueling, engineering and deck expertise, interiors, galley equipment, safety and medical supplies and certifications, uniforms and foul weather gear, cordage, custom items of all kinds, worldwide shipping, new builds, and a wide array of provisions.
The speakers underscored that Fort Lauderdale has a premiere global hub reputation for boating, skilled services and repair, marine professionalism and ambience, the envy of coastal cities worldwide. The resulting generation of jobs and economic gains enjoyed by those working in the region is likely unparalleled. They are confident that this unique resource will be nurtured and maintained through the cooperation between private enterprise and the goodwill of local, state and regional governments.