City, organizers, exhibitors prepared for FLIBS opening

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Two days prior to the opening of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, organizers are looking forward to helping rebuild the marine industry and the local economy in the wake of last week's destructive Hurricane Wilma.

By all indications, the show may do just that. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle said this week that, “storm or no storm, we are back in business,” and among others who have fought to bring FLIBS to life, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist told show organizers that “we're sending the right message at the right time” (by having the show).

It has been a combined effort to put on the postponed 46th annual show, including scheduling and logistical support from the government of Broward County, the local convention and visitors bureau, the City of Fort Lauderdale, and the marine industry at large, not to mention the organizations that postponed their own events so that FLIBS could be held at the Convention Center. And show organizers Yachting Promotions, Inc. and the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) are optimistic that the show will be a success.

“In my mind,” says Frank Herhold, Executive Director of the MIASF, “this show will not be the record breaker everyone was anticipating, but it's going to be a very, very good show. We're doing our part not only to help rebuild our marine industry but also the local economy.”

Much of the criticism that show organizers have taken has been directed at putting on a luxury yacht show in the midst of a national disaster. However, points out Wes Dickman, COO of HYS Yacht Sales, Dania, Fla., Mayor Naugle deserves great credit for ensuring that the city's recovery efforts are directed at assisting the city and its citizens rather than at rebuilding the show and its infrastructure.

“I admire the mayor's position,” Dickman explains, “and I think it should be paraphrased somehow because it's important to repeat, that while the boat show is important to the city and the economic impact to the city, he gave a pretty direct message to the city manager that you will not put all your resources toward the beach and the boat show. You will take care of the rest of the Lauderdale community. And he was very emphatic about that.”

Taking care of business
In fact, both Dickman and Herhold point to and praise Kaye Pearson, president of Yachting Promotions, for bring this show to life, despite the hurdles and criticism it has faced.

“His efforts and million and a half contributions deserve the industry's strong support, not its criticism,” Herhold says. “The easier thing for him to do would be to say, see you next year.”

“Pearson has gone well beyond his promotional talents to do the things that were necessary to get the show up and running,” Dickman adds. “He contracted with a private contractor to get the beach parking lot cleaned up because the city didn't see that as a top priority. Kaye has spent money well beyond what he had budgeted to spend to get the show going. I think that instead of some of the criticism he has had from some of the people who aren't here and don't see what's going on, he should be applauded for having the ability to see the broad picture and get things done so, in fact, this boat show can happen.”

A media advisory issued yesterday outlined the progress that Pearson and his group and the City of Fort Lauderdale have made over the past week, including updates on the Convention Center, the boats moving into the docks, hotel and travel accommodations, airports and power and gasoline availability. The advisory reported that “with every passing day, the sense of normalcy is returning to the region.”

And with that in mind, show producers are looking at FLIBS as an opportunity to help the local economy, not to mention the marine industry itself, recuperate from the storm's intense destruction on the area. And city officials and exhibitors alike are backing them up.

“I can tell you that we are going to hit that boat show with a vengeance,” Dickman said. “You know, I have a caricature in my office of the waist up of a football player with his head in his hands and a quote from Joe Namath, and it says, “when you win nothing hurts.”

“That's how we're approaching this show. If you want to be a loser, then you need to go somewhere else and be a loser. If you want to be a winner, then you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get to the boat show and try to assist people to the best of your ability.”

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