Great Lakes Commission expands boating study

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – With the release of a second request for proposals, it appears the funds being allocated to the Great Lakes Recreational Boating Economic Benefits Study and the scope of the study have grown.

The Great Lakes Commission originally received a $200,000 grant from the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct the study, according to Ned Dikmen, a former commissioner from the Illinois delegation.

In response, the group put forth a plan this spring under which it would contract out $70,000 of the money. That $70,000 was to be spent primarily in assembling and analyzing already existing data on the Great Lakes.

According to a recently released request for proposals, however, it now seems the group has added a second phase to its plan under which it will spend $150,000 more contracting out work on the study, for a total of $220,000. The new FRP suggests much of this will be spent on new research.

Mike Donohue, president and CEO of the Great Lakes Commission, said in an interview today that the source of all of the study’s funding is the Army Corp of Engineers.

Former commissioner pleased with expansion

Dikman, who serves as publisher of Great Lakes Boating magazine, expressed concern over the allocation of the original $200,000 when the study’s plan was first revealed.

He felt that the $70,000 was insufficient and an analysis of already existing data would paint an incomplete picture of recreational boating on the Great Lakes. In addition, he questioned where the remaining $130,000 would be spent. Dikmen has since been relieved of his position as a commissioner.

Donohue explained that the commission has an in-house research team that has been and will continue to tackle as much of the research required for the study as possible. Therefore, a certain percentage of the Army Corps funding has been allocated to the in-house team. It delivers the “biggest bang for the buck,” and only that research which is beyond its capabilities is being contracted to outside providers, he said. Donohue also stated that “100 percent of the funds” allocated to the study are being directed at it.

And now, with the addition of a second FRP, Dikmen is “extremely pleased.” He expects the study to reveal that recreational boating is the third biggest industry on the Great Lakes, larger than commercial shipping.

“In years past, recreational boating came on the coattails of navigation,” Dikmen stated, something he hopes will change once the study results are released.

Donohue also is optimistic about the impact of the results of the study. “We expect that this study will reveal a significant amount of new data and information that will highlight the tremendous economic importance of Great Lakes recreational boating,” he stated. “It should certainly help inform discussion over opportunities for issues such as recreational dredging and other recreational boating services on the Great Lakes.”

A larger scope

The Recreation Marine Research Center, founded by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Michigan State University, was awarded a grant this spring to complete an initial piece of the study, and now plans to submit a proposal in response to the second RFP, according to Jim Petru, director of market statistics for NMMA.

NMMA describes the new RFP as “an enhancement allowing the contractor to conduct some primary research which was not allowed under the first grant.”

There are five main contributions the second RFP makes to the study, according to NMMA.

1. It will provide the funding necessary to expand the boater panel in the Great Lake states to be more representative of the states relative to the number of boats registered in the states. Currently, we have a national panel of 10,000 boaters which the spending profiles are being calculated on. With the expansion, we will be able to refine those spending profiles to more accurately reflect the Great Lakes region.

2. It will include data from Canada and the St. Lawrence system in the economic model. This research effort was not included in the first grant.

3. It calls for the development of a computer-based model which will permit relative easy updates to the study results. In the past, the sporadic attempts at developing a picture of the economic impact of boating on the Great Lakes have utilized varying methodologies. This effort will standardize the methodology and provide the ability to update the inputs and come out with the new impact factors.

4. Similarly, it calls for the development of a user-friendly web-based economic impact calculator system that marinas can use for specific Great Lakes marina development.

5. It will also include analysis of the economic impact data by state, province, county and lake. The first grant calls for a regional impact study. This will allow us to drill down the data even further.

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— Liz Walz

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