FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Organizers are calling the 2nd National Marina & Boatyard Conference and Exposition "a good first start, with lots of room for growth and improvement."
Though this is the second year the Marina Operators Association of America (MOAA), the American Boat Builders and Repairers Association (ABBRA) and the International Marina Institute (IMI) have teamed up to produce the event, it has attracted more than double the number of attendees this year than last year, about 479 at final count, and exhibitors have grown more than 50 percent.
The growth isn’t expected to stop there, however. ABBRA Executive Director Mark Amaral said in an interview Friday that not only are there "lots of marina and boatyard operators that need to be here," but there are a "bunch of folks trying to sell to the service industry who should be here too."
One way that the organizers are hoping to attract them to future events is to start planning earlier. In fact, Amaral said organizers are going to put together a three-year plan for the conference and exposition in the next four to six weeks.
"We need to get into that rhythm of marketing the show nine months of the year," he said.
Exhibitors pleased with new format
Organizers weren’t the only ones pleased with this year’s event, however. Exhibitors, both new and old, also said the show was effective for them.
Exhibitor Terrence McBride of Shoremaster said the difference between the company’s experience at the 2002 event and this event was like night and day.
Shoremaster doubled the size of its booth and spent $75,000 to be at the expo this year, and he said it seemed to be worth it for the company.
"There was a really good steady flow of qualified buyers," he said, compared to "more tire kickers" last year.
Helix Mooring Systems Inc. and Seaflex, which shared a booth at the show, said the set-up of the event was critical. It allowed them to talk to marina operators during lunch and the breaks and to talk to dock manufacturers during the conference sessions.
"If you’re looking for marinas, this is the place," said Royce Randlett, Jr., Helix Mooring Systems president.
Kent Johansson, North American marketing director for Seaflex, said the company plans to be at the next show with a bigger booth.
Paulson Computer Systems, which also exhibited at the show, saw a "good showing of potential customers," according to James Hepola, operations manager. However, the company was hopeful there would be more time for marina and boatyard operators to spend at the show in the future.
Exhibitor Mike Stenberg of Dr. Shrink said it was a strong show for his company and he plans to exhibit at future shows.
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-- Liz Walz