Good news for a change

The boating industry received several pieces of positive news this week as the National Marine Bankers Association reported signs of stabilizing retail boat prices, the federal government reached a decision that will allow more dealerships to qualify for SBA loans, and IBEX organizers said that attendance at this year’s event was up 13 percent from 2009.

In a release Thursday, NMBA said lenders are starting to see prices firm in retail boat sales, “possibly indicating a turn in the market,” and president Karen Trostle said NMBA believes this is “another recovery point in the cycle of availability of credit from lenders and interest in borrowing to a buy a boat by consumers. If we can move these forces in tandem and away from the malaise of banks’ very strict credit guidelines and buyers low desire to finance or refinance a boat purchase, it could signal a return to stronger activity by all involved in the transaction.”

On Wednesday, the National Marine Manufacturers Association distributed a release announcing that the Small Business Administration will permanently increase the size standards for boat, personal watercraft and RV dealers to $30 million, effective Nov. 5. Size standards are used to determine eligibility for federal small business assistance programs for private sector industries.

“NMMA is pleased that SBA has recognized our industry’s request for parity in the size standards and hopes that more marine businesses will now qualify for SBA assistance,” NMMA said in the release. Also included was a portion of SBA’s explanation for the new size standard: “An association representing marine manufacturers commented on SBA’s proposed size standards for [boat, personal watercraft and RV dealers] … The association expressed concern about the size standard for boat dealers as it affects their access to SBA’s business and Dealer Floor Plan loans … In its comment, the association stated that there are many similarities among the three industries cited above and suggested that SBA establish a common size standard for all three … SBA concurs that these three retail industries are sufficiently alike and would likely be better served with a common size standard.”

And on Thursday, NMMA released attendance figures for  the 2010 International Boat Builders’ Exhibition and Conference, held last week for the first time in Louisville, Ky. NMMA said total attendance was 5,161, up from 4,567 in 2009.

What do you think? Have retail boat prices stabilized where you are? Will the new SBA standard make a difference for your business? If you were at IBEX, did you have a good show? Please let us know.

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