Hurricane damage could cost industry over $100 million

CHICAGO – The National Marine Manufacturers Association says without redevelopment in the Gulf Coast regions impacted by Hurricane Katrina, potential damages the recreational boating industry’s marinas and water access areas could total more than $100 million, NMMA reported in a recent release.

NMMA said permanent job loss for thousands of employees in the industry could also result, and is urging the White House to include the industry’s marinas and water access areas as part of redevelopment efforts.

“We know the recreational boating industry contributes substantially to the Gulf Coast region’s economy and are working to ensure the Bush Administration realizes how vital it is for there to be a full restoration of the region’s boating infrastructure,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the NMMA. “Without the inclusion of marinas, boat ramps and other water access points in redevelopment efforts there is a real potential for serious economic damage to Gulf Coast communities.”

The association also estimates that non-marina boaters, or those using trailerable boats in the Gulf Coast, rely on marinas and public access sites to launch their boats, spending approximately $2 billion annually on boating related expenses, such as maintenance, fuel and insurance.

Trailerable boat owners depend on public access sites to launch their boats. Hundreds of these sites have likely suffered damage in the impacted areas, resulting in limited access to water.

In 2003, there were nearly 771,000 registered boats in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama combined. In addition, these hurricane-affected states accounted for more than $725 million in new powerboat, motor and accessory sales in 2004.

While estimates of marina-related damage following Hurricane Katrina are great, they do not include lost boat sales, which could have an even greater impact on the Gulf Coast’s economic loss should any destroyed boating businesses not be restored.

Information was collected by the NMMA and the Recreational Maine Research Center at Michigan State University from several national surveys to estimate potential economic losses associated with Hurricane Katrina on the region’s marinas and water access sites.

Similar to the aftermath of Florida’s multiple hurricanes in 2004, there is the possibility for a conversion of coastal land from boating use to alternative uses in the Gulf Coast region. Such transferred land use would have an adverse effect on boating businesses, the local tourism economy and overall attractiveness of these areas. Many recreational boating businesses, such as marinas and dealerships, in the hurricane-affected region are small, family-owned businesses without the necessary capital reserves to rebuild following catastrophic damage. Coupled with rapidly rising coastal property values, there is a strong possibility for conversion, ultimately creating an adverse impact on the local economy, NMMA said.

“While damages from Hurricane Katrina are still being assessed, it’s fair to estimate that it will likely take months and years to rebuild the recreational boating industry in that part of the country,” Dammrich said. “Regardless of any damage, boaters throughout the region will want to come back to the water once their lives can return to some sense of normalcy, so it’s critical that we rebuild water access and services in order to restore, and possibly strengthen, the future of the Gulf Coast economy.”

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