Yesterday I was honored to be back at the White House, this time with a few others from our industry, to hear President Trump and several cabinet secretaries share what they have been doing related to protecting the environment. It is always an honor to be invited to the White House and, while many believe the Administration should be doing more, I appreciate any attention given to the importance of taking care of the world around us.
As a young kid I can remember hearing about the Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland when a spark from a passing train ignited pollutants in the water setting the river on fire (yep, true story, Google it). While the fire itself was an embarrassing disaster, especially for the city of Cleveland, it was also a tipping point in the national consciousness and catalyst that encouraged President Nixon to sign an executive order forming the Environmental Protection Agency. While I generally have an anti-regulation bias, many would argue that the EPA has done a lot in the U.S. since the early 70’s to both clear our air and clean our rivers (including the Cuyahoga River which had ZERO fish when the fire happened but today supports 44 species).
I have never understood how someone can be in the boating industry and not be concerned about the environment. Not only is it good for us and our family’s health, it is also good for business. While travelling the globe, I sadly have seen many lakes and rivers in beautiful places that are completely unsuitable for boating, and sometimes even human contact, because of pollution. When entire markets are closed to boating because the waters around them are polluted it is not only bad for people, it is bad for business.
Earlier this month I was reminded again of the importance of environmental protection after reading an article about my home state, Florida, in Outdoor Life magazine, with the heading “Florida's Water Crisis has Sport Fishing on the Brink of Collapse.” The article stated that fecal matter, killer algae, pollutants, and improper water management have created a hydrological disaster in our state. If not dealt with soon, this situation will not only have a significant negative impact on our economy but also severely diminish quality of life in the state. Thankfully, earlier this year, Florida’s legislature approved our new governor’s request to allocate hundreds of millions of new dollars to fight these problems, but it may not be enough.
I have spent most of my life on, around, and in the water and almost my entire career in the boating industry. I believe the best way to protect our industry is to protect the environment. Even more importantly, I want my kids, future grandkids and coming generations to enjoy the water-based lifestyle I have enjoyed.
As business leaders we can have a reflexive anti-regulation bias and I understand the government abuses that have created that bias. However, we need to find the proper balance that allows us to both prosper today while also protecting the environment for those who follow us. Not only do we owe it to future generations; it is also good business sense.
Bill Yeargin is the president and CEO of Correct Craft.