Grow boating plan’s release postponed

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – More than 70 marine industry leaders will gather in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Wednesday to continue work on a plan to help grow boating, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) President Thom Dammrich said in an interview this morning.

The group is now aiming to release the plan, originally scheduled to be announced this spring, in the fall.

The same group met last October in Chicago at a forum co-sponsored by the NMMA, to discuss the problems facing the industry and look for possible solutions. As a result of that meeting, three task forces were established to address several of the concerns raised.

This week’s meeting will update those present – representing boat, engine and accessories manufacturers as well as retailers, finance companies and many others across the industry spectrum – on the work that has been done, and allow further guidance from group members.

“Basically we’re giving everybody a progress report on what the three task forces have been doing since October, and we’re seeking a consensus that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Dammrich. “I’m hoping the group will say we are on target. We hope to have a plan developed that we can present to the broader industry by the fall.”

Task force updates

Dammrich said the task forces have been meeting regularly since October to work on issues in three general areas.

The first group is attempting to develop a marketing and communications strategy for the boating industry. The task force is looking at past research, and also doing some of its own, to determine what the industry’s message needs to be.

The second task force is trying to establish a more timely and accurate system of reporting vital industry statistics. Specifically, Dammrich said the group would like engine and boat manufacturers and dealers to report retail sales results for the prior month, by the 20th day of the current month.

“We need everyone on board for that to work, however,” Dammrich said.

The third task force is concerned with standards and quality in the industry, “things we can do to improve product quality,” Dammrich said.

One of those things is a proposal to make NMMA certification for boats mandatory for NMMA membership, according to Dammrich.

“That would be a bold move,” he said.

Reasons for optimism?

Although the boating industry has tried to address some of these concerns before – the Uniting the Industry for Growth discussions in the 90s for example – Dammrich believes the approach being used this time is fundamentally different.

“This isn’t the Uniting the Industry for Growth initiative,” he said. “That failed because people talked about how we were going to fund it, but never developed the strategy. [This time] we’re not asking people to put up money until they know what they are putting it up for. That’s a major difference.”

While he doesn’t yet know what this week’s meeting will achieve, Dammrich thinks the group is gaining ground, and his fingers are crossed for the future.

“I certainly hope there will be progress,” Dammrich said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

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— Jonathan Mohr

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