From the Florida Panhandle to the Keys, Floridians and tourists alike flock to our pristine waters year-round to enjoy some of the best boating experiences the United States has to offer.
While many know Florida is the ideal destination for a day on the water, what’s less well known is the significant impact recreational boating has on the state's economy. According to a recent study from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), Florida’s recreational boating business topped all states nationwide last year in generating $23.3 billion in economic activity.
Beyond Florida, the boating industry casts an even wider net in bolstering our national economy. In its seventh straight year of growth, the industry is flourishing due to high consumer confidence, expanded participation, and product innovation.
Not only did the industry contribute $170.3 billion to the U.S. economy last year, the NMMA report also found that it supports more than 35,000 marine businesses — including suppliers, dealers, retailers, repair shops, and marinas – and 691,000 direct and indirect American jobs.
As CEO of Correct Craft, a marine manufacturer that has operated in the Sunshine State for more than 90 years, I can speak firsthand to how valuable boating is to our state. On top of the nearly 700 jobs we have created in Florida — not to mention the additional 700 people we employ across the country — our leadership in pioneering efforts like our new Watershed Innovation subsidiary allows us to bolster the local economy in other ways. Last September, the subsidiary kicked off a project with the University of Central Florida to develop an aluminum fishing boat with electric propulsion.
Recent pro-business, pro-boating legislation, such as the Modern Fish Act, has furthered this ability to be globally competitive and continue giving back to the community. Trump signed the bill into law on Dec. 31. These achievements are due to efforts from state and congressional lawmakers who have long made Florida a friendly state for recreational boating and business.
We are also encouraged by one of the first acts of new Gov. Ron DeSantis. He signed an executive order promising $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration and the establishment of a task force to combat harmful algae blooms. Both issues are top priorities of the recreational boating community. Environmental protection has a direct effect on our industry’s success and we stand ready to help the governor with these critical initiatives.
With the start of boat show season, beginning this month, we're looking forward to continuing this positive momentum. Boat shows generate as much as half of annual sales for many boat manufacturers and serve as a chance to show our latest products to the market. In fact, our state’s own Miami International Boat Show will generate an estimated $854 million of economic activity for Florida and attract 100,000 people from 35 countries during next month’s President’s Day weekend.
The outlook for the new year remains positive, with marine manufacturers estimated to see another increase in powerboat sales. But we can't neglect that the ongoing trade tensions put a strain on the boating industry. Though recreational boat building is overwhelmingly American — with more than 95 percent of boats sold in the U.S. made here — tariffs and trade wars disrupt global supply chains and can result in higher production costs. I encourage the Trump Administration to work hard to “close the deal” on trade negotiations.
Our state's families, communities, and businesses rely on the boating industry for their livelihoods— and we must do everything we can to ensure the recreational boating industry can continue to serve as a major asset to the local and state economy.
Bill Yeargin is the president and CEO of Correct Craft.
Editor's note: Bill Yeargin originally wrote this blog as on op-ed, published in the Orlando Sentinel on Jan. 15, 2019.