Looking forward after successful ABC
This year’s American Boating Congress recently wrapped up, with hundreds of industry stakeholders gathering in Washington, D.C. to learn about issues facing the marine industry and visit Capitol Hill. Attendees heard from political leaders such as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and also made more than 250 visits to Senate and House offices.
ABC 2013 was organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and co-hosted by 32 groups, including Boating Industry. We talked to Jeff Gabriel, legislative counsel at NMMA, about the success of this year’s ABC.
How was attendance this year compared to past years?
This is by far the best-attended ABC we’ve had since 2008. I’ve been to many ABC’s, going back a decade, and this one had by far the most energy that I’ve seen in the participants in a long time. People were positive, there was a real happy mood. There was a seriousness about the tasks at hand, but with some level of happiness coming back.
This was the second year ABC has had co-hosts along with NMMA. How has that changed the event?
The co-hosts, really a brain child of [NMMA President] Thom Dammrich, and others I’m sure, but Thom has really been driving this effort to look at the boating industry as a community. … The community was there and being the second year of having co-hosts you saw an a-ha moment from the co-hosts. They were really excited to be involved and NMMA worked very closely with them in a true partnership. The 32 co-hosts worked very closely in putting the program together and making sure it ran smoothly.
It seems like there was good turnout at the BoatPAC reception by members of Congress and their staff. Why is that important?
As NMMA and the Center for Coastal Conservation continue their partnership on the PAC reception night, the night before ABC kicks off, that has really gained some significant traction. We had 17 to 20 members of Congress and senators that breezed in and out. Some stayed for a long time.
They see it as an important industry. We’ve done a good job as a community of getting our message out there that we’re a strong economic driver at the national, regional and local level. The politicians go where their constituents. They want to go see the job creators – and that’s a lot of who we have in the room at that time – because they understand the kind of economic numbers that are being generated.
E15 was a major topic of discussion at ABC. What can you tell us about that?
[At ABC] our members were talking to influential staff, members of Congress and senators and one of the key topics almost everyone talked about was E15. In large part because of the work NMMA has done over the years, including 2013 ABC, there are a significant number of members of Congress and senators that … even five years ago had absolutely no idea what E15 was or what its effect would be on boat engines, but can now talk very intelligently about what the EPA is doing, why it damages engines, why it’s not necessarily such a good thing.
You’re going to see that momentum continue to carry forward. I’m not sure what is going to happen in the House or the Senate this year with respect to any type of energy legislation, but there’s a tremendous amount of buzz around the renewable fuel standard.
That is one concrete example of where, over the years, we’ve really generated a tremendous amount of buzz. Quite frankly, I think we’re on the right side of the argument. We’ve come at the issue from a very pure perspective, looked at it from a fact-based, scientific approach. I think that’s why we’ve made such good strides on that issue, and I think Congress will continue to push that through.
What else is NMMA going to be focused on for 2013?
The other thing that you’re going to see as the summer goes on is a continued focus on showing not just our friends, but other members of Congress … that recreational boating in the United States is really good, big business. It’s good for jobs, it’s good for the community their in and obviously for the boaters themselves the benefits are enormous. It’s a very positive message across the board.
One thing that’s probably important to point out is that these efforts, and E15 is just one example, are often a multi-year process.
That is absolutely spot-on. Almost everything that we talk about here is kind of perennial. As much as there are crises that we’re working on, there’s an awful lot of maintenance. Even in a crisis – and E15 in many respects is a crisis for the boaters and manufacturers – it can take more time.
We’ve done a lot of the front-loading work, we’ve got a lot of people out there on very powerful committees that get our issue and we’re going to continue to work it. A lot of these things are about maintenance, they’re about relationships.