Regulations hurting ability to grow, survey says
A majority of those in the boating industry believe government regulations are making it difficult for them to grow their business.
That’s according to the latest Boating Industry survey, which surveyed readers of the magazine and digital products about their top issues and attitudes about government policies and regulations. The survey was conducted by email in February, with respondents a mix of dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and others in the industry.
Nearly 60 percent of readers said that government regulations hurt their ability to grow their business in the last year. The specific regulations cited by respondents varied, but most were focused around restrictions on fishing, local permitting issues and environmental policy from emissions to the Renewable Fuel Standard and its ethanol requirements.
“We have had to devote resources, both financial and human, to satisfying regulations that are not appropriate,” said a Kansas-based dealer. “These are resources that could have grown the business.”
An Illinois-based manufacturer expressed a similar opinion: “Staff time spent dealing with regulations is staff time not spent growing the business.”
The increased regulation is also driving more people out of boating, said one New York dealer.
“The manufacturing cost to build EPA-compliant outboard engines has made it extremely difficult for most people in my area to afford newer engines,” the dealer said. “The addition of alcohol to our fuel supply has ruined many of my customers’ motors. … As a consequence many of my previous customers have given up the boating and fishing sports.”
Ethanol the top concern
Those in the industry are becoming increasingly concerned about ethanol and all of its related issues. Thirty percent of respondents cited it as the regulatory issue that was most important to their business this year – twice the number that chose any other issue.
That was an 11-percentage-point climb from 2014, when 19 percent of readers said ethanol was their top regulatory concern. More than 60 percent of respondents this year said they were very concerned about ethanol issues and 98 percent are at least somewhat concerned about them.
Last year’s top two issues – both cited by 20 percent of respondents in 2014 – were tax policy and the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Both of those issues, but especially the ACA, are much less of a concern this year to readers.
This year, only 9 percent – less than half of last year’s number – said that Obamacare was the most important issue to their business, ranking it No. 5 on this year’s list.
And 49 percent of all respondents said they were very concerned about the issue, down from the 67 percent that were very concerned last year. The issue was also the one that the largest group – 14 percent – said they were not concerned about at all. Most likely, those respondents represent smaller businesses whose business is not as likely to be impacted by the law.
As for tax policy, it dropped to third on this year’s list, with 14 percent saying it was the most important issue to their business, but 50 percent are still very concerned about the issue – and 98 percent are at least somewhat concerned, matching the level for ethanol.
Besides ethanol, water access was the only issue to see a big jump in importance, with 15 percent naming it as their top issue, up from 9 percent in 2014. Environmental regulations (13 percent) were the only other issue that more than 10 percent of readers cited as a top concern.
With the impact these issues can have on business, the good news is that many are trying to do something about it.
Eighty percent of the respondents said they have taken some sort of action to try to affect public policy. More than half have contacted an elected official to express their opinions on policy, and 31 percent have met in person with an elected representative or staff.
Calls to action, like those sent out by trade associations and other groups, are also prompting action, with 38 percent of readers saying they have responded to at least one in the last year.
Finally, 16 percent reported attending a state legislative session or conference, and 9 percent have attended American Boating Congress.