Executive Spotlight — The race against economic factors, time and water access

We have been fortunate to enjoy a period of growth and prosperity during a time of global uncertainty. Traditionally, times of military action, rising fuel prices, political change have not encouraged a healthy marine environment. Yet, our industry has, clearly, prospered during the past 18 months. Therefore, I am not as concerned about these particular problems as I am about the potential for economic stagnation, rising interest rates to combat inflation, and the inflation itself of material costs, which will inevitably, drive higher prices and, potentially, drive interest rates even higher.

While these are very real concerns, the inflationary consideration is secondary to a much larger concern - that of supply. There is a reason that materials and hardware prices are rising - global demand is outstripping production, thereby, driving prices. This is a vicious cycle. Our consumption drives world production, which, in turn forces up prices while eliminating jobs in the US. This erosion of twin pillars of market prosperity may well impact entire industries, including marine.

Government persists in its intervention, placing an ever greater burden upon small business in the form of regulatory oversight, creating endless mountains of paperwork for the overworked staffs of the backbone of the marine industry. It is tragic when you think that one of the prime components of the growth of the Chinese economy is the relative ease to do business, relative to the ever more costly regulatory environment here in the US.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge for the industry is the fact that they are not making any more water and they are not making any more time. Water is crowded and time is short. Lack of adequate marina facilities and/or trailer access make it difficult for consumers to enjoy their boats, even if they are willing to put up with the crowded water. Depleting fisheries threatened to diminish participation in the sport.

The former happy days of the family of four getting together for a weekend on the lake is nothing but a distant memory as family members, including children, have become more and more busy with personal interest and commitments. Likewise, for affluent baby boomers, the emergence of the affordable RV has created a whole new alternative for leisure, which is close as their driveway.

The good news is that boaters love boating and boat builders and suppliers love the industry. While the question of the pace of growth may be at issue, the continued viability of a secure marine marketplace is not. Despite our best engineering efforts, we must ultimately ride the ebb and flow of many issues, which are outside of our direct control.

Kent Wooldridge
President of the United Marine Manufacturers Association

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