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Boat, marine industry unites in spearheading Hurricane Harvey support effort

By Tim Hennagir

Boatbuilders, engine manufacturers, marinas and dealers were united in rescue and support efforts the week following Hurricane Harvey.

In a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain as a historic storm system meandered over eastern Texas and adjacent waters, causing catastrophic flooding. The industry’s response to the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005 featured direct financial support and people power, as well as timely deliveries of marine equipment.

National Marine Manufacturers Association statistics indicate that the economic impact of recreational boating in Texas is $6 billion annually. Furthermore, there are an estimated 2,041 boating related businesses in Texas and 31,644 direct and indirect boating industry jobs in Texas, said Ellen Hopkins, NMMA’s vice president of marketing communications.

Mercury Marine, in an effort to help in the recovery mission in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, donated multiple boats and engines to the affected areas, said Daniel Kubera, Brunswick Corporation’s director of media relations and corporate communications. Mercury deployed 30, 6 horsepower outboard engines as well as 10 inflatable boats to the hurricane command center in Texas. The boats and engines were used in various relief efforts.

“The engines were be installed on boats deployed from local dealer and retailer inventories that didn’t come equipped with engines,” Kubera said. Additional boats, engines and other supplies from Brunswick were rushed to the storm-ravaged Houston area as southeast Texans continued to battle unprecedented flooding and other damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey.

Engine manufacturers tap inventories

Virtually all boats available in inventory from local dealers and retailers were deployed to the rescue and recovery effort in and around Houston. Those dealers still in operation have been generous with their time and product to aid first responders and others locating and ferrying people to safety, Kubera said.

Additionally, Brunswick rushed 12 complete boat and engine packages from its Lowe Boat plant in Lebanon, Missouri, to a local dealer where the boats were deployed with the Texas National Guard and other local agencies to aid in the rescue effort.

“Lowe employees gave generously of their time and talents to prepare and expedite the shipment,” Kubera said.

The state command center in Texas also identified the scarcity of life jackets. In response, Land ‘N’ Sea rushed 100 life jackets to Houston from some of its nearby warehouses. When a delivery service balked at taking the items – apparently worried they could either not reach the destination or return – Land ‘N’ Sea employees Travis Carter and Steven Head didn’t hesitate to jump in a company truck and complete a 10-hour round trip to Houston, Kubera said.

Brunswick set up a hotline for employees in the area, and continues to contact employees to monitor their status. Similar to actions taken during Hurricane Matthew, a Category 5 hurricane that hit Florida and the East Coast in 2016, Brunswick staged water, cleaning supplies and other essentials to eventually aid employees with their personal recovery efforts, Kubera said.

Yamaha Marine Group pledged four, G3 aluminum boats and one Skeeter bay boat to the rescue effort, said Austin Roebuck, communications, government relations and dealer education manager.

“Yamaha also agreed to cover fuel costs for pro staff members in the area who helped rescue stranded residents,” Roebuck said. Bass Nation provided volunteers to man the G3 boats, and staff from Ross Motorsports in Lufkin, Texas, a community northeast of Houston, manned the four G3 boats and were actively engaged in rescue efforts.

Employees provide assistance

American Honda’s Power Equipment Division mobilized personnel, generators, and water pumps, said Kathy Graham, southeast media relations manager. Honda employees started moving products to warehouses nearest to where Hurricane Harvey would make landfall, also activating an operations center.

“We had a team on the ground in the affected areas to assist dealers as needed in reopening, and getting the products customers needed,” Graham said. “We also prepped dealers for what to expect when the flood waters started receding.” American Honda is in the process of making a donation to the American Red Cross, she said.

FCJ Marine, a consumer direct boatbuilder, conducted rescues with a BF60 and Honda Marine dealer Inflatable Boats Florida donated a BF20 to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for relief efforts.

Bass Pro Shops has seven retail locations and seven boating center locations in Texas, including three in the greater Houston area. The company provided more than 80 Tracker boats to government agencies and rescue organizations in Houston and other impacted communities in Texas. The company is supporting affected associates through its Bass Pro Cares Fund, which provides support for critical living expenses in times of devastating need. The company remains in close contact with the governor’s office, first responders and associates on the ground to monitor response efforts and assess ongoing needs.

Bass Pro Shops is encouraging all customers and community members who want to support relief efforts to donate directly to the American Red Cross.

Donations include cash, T-shirt sale proceeds

In the immediate wake of the storm, Bass Pro Shops also supported disaster response organizations by donating truckloads of relief supplies totaling $40,000. The contributions supported Convoy of Hope, a Springfield, Mo.-based humanitarian organization, and the American Red Cross. Donated supplies include protein-rich foods like Uncle Buck’s Premium Jerky and peanuts for those in the field.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s disaster and destruction, Tige Boats provided relief for the tragedy that unfolded in its home state. With the support of the boating industry, Tige Boats is giving others the opportunity to step up and help with the purchase of a T-shirt that symbolizes Texas being stronger than the storm, or “Texas Strong.” Proceeds from T-shirt sales are being donated to the American Red Cross.

As floodwaters rose in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, KL Outdoor/GSC Technologies, a New Water Capital portfolio company, got a call from Walmart’s disaster response team: Two-thousand kayaks were needed for flood rescue and relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana.

In partnership with Walmart, the company jumped into action, shipping 2,000 of its Sun Dolphin brand kayaks — some 30 truckloads — to areas hardest hit by devastating flooding. KLO/GSC also donated a truckload of jon boats — approximately 50 boats — to Academy Sports + Outdoors, a Houston-based chain of sporting goods stores, to help with flood rescue efforts, said CEO Chuck Smith.

Jon boats are ideal for rescue efforts, capable of carrying multiple people and relief items, such as water and clothing. Smith said the surge of support for those in harm’s way demonstrates the best in people. “Unfortunately, many of our customers are put in the situation where they are really having to struggle for their livelihoods,” Smith said. “It’s nice just to play a part in the rescue effort and help get those impacted around a little better. “I think you see the best in people when you see this situation in Texas, and it gives you a good feeling. It lets you know that if you ever got put in that situation, other folks around the country would step up and help you.”

New Water Capital partner Brian McGee said support for hurricane-relief efforts is particularly important to the Boca Raton, Florida-based firm.

“Living and working on the Florida coast, we at New Water Capital know something about hurricanes and about what a difference it makes when neighbors, businesses and volunteers from all over the country chip in to help out,” McGee said. “That’s why we are especially proud of the support KL Outdoor /GSC Technologies is giving to rescue and relief efforts.”

Marina, dealer updates

Suntex Marina Investors LLC, also provided assistance to those adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey. The company is collected donations for relief efforts from employees, members and customers through YouCaring.com. Suntex donated 10 percent of all Marine Center sales made during the Labor Day holiday weekend to local hurricane relief efforts. 

“Suntex is a Dallas-based company with strong ties to Southeastern Texas,” said Ron TenEyck, vice president of operations. “We are determined to have the greatest impact and do the greatest good for those affected. Therefore, 100 percent of the funds we raise will be given to local Texas charities with the resources for direct assistance to those who need it most. Our local marinas are doing their own outreach.”

Crosswater Yacht Club ran trailers full of needed first response items and Suntex’s Dallas-Forth Worth marinas collected items for local shelters and churches.

National Marine Lenders Association members Bank of America, BB&T, SunTrust Bank and Wells Fargo are among 30 corporations donating $1 million or more to hurricane relief efforts. According to CNN Money, as of Aug. 27, those 30 companies had pledged an aggregate of more than $65 million dollars.

Texas Marine has locations in Beaumont, Conroe and Seabrook. Late last week, the marine dealership reported on its Facebook page Hurricane Harvey recovery operations were continuing in full force.

“We are operational at two of our three locations and look forward to continuing support operations. We are so proud of local Texas and Louisiana boaters who have banded together to help save lives and make such a huge difference in this difficult time for our community,” read a Texas Marine Facebook posting. “Our team is thankful to be a part of these incredible efforts and we are here to help all involved. Our prayers are with the victims and with those making a difference.”

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