New England Boat Show’s future in jeopardy

BOSTON – The New England Boat Show (NEBS) may be forced to close its doors after 2006 absent immediate state legislative intervention, the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association reported in a statement today.

The show is crucial to the Massachusetts boating industry, which contributes nearly $2 billion annually to Commonwealth coffers and employs over 27,000 men and women, the association stated. Additionally, a majority of NEBS exhibitors trace over 50 percent of their annual sales to this event, which is in its 50th and potentially final year.

The reason for the potential closure is that NEBS is presently without a home for 2007 and beyond. While the $800 million taxpayer-funded Boston Convention and Exhibition Center sits all but empty, the NEBS has for years been forced to turn away hundreds of marine businesses seeking the opportunity to exhibit at the show for lack of space at the Bayside Exhibition Center. Present circumstances will forever preclude these businesses from participating in a Boston-based winter boat show, as the NEBS is forbidden by law to move to the BCEC, which is the only venue in the city able to accommodate existing and potential exhibitors, according to the association.

The trade association said the solution lies with the Massachusetts Legislature and House Bill 4493, which would amend the 1997 BCEC enabling act’s provision that precludes the hosting of publicly-attended gate shows at the facility. Ten years ago the Seaport District neighborhood was concerned about parking and traffic associated with gate shows, which allow visitors to purchase their tickets “at the door.”

Yet within the past decade, tens of billions of nationwide taxpayer dollars have been invested in the Big Dig to improve downtown Boston traffic patterns and revitalize the economic growth of the Seaport District, including the $800 million statewide taxpayer-funded BCEC, the association reported.

“Legislative inaction shuns these investments and risks the livelihoods of the majority of the Massachusetts marine industry, despite the best efforts of several members of the Legislative Boating Caucus, including lead sponsor Representative Paul Kujowski of Webster and Chairman Anthony J. Verga of Gloucester, to move forward HB4493,” the association said in its statement.

The trade association said the City of Boston and the Seaport District alone would reap dramatic economic benefits from an expanded NEBS at the new BCEC by doubling the number of exhibitors, increasing space available to current exhibitors and generating far more “heads on beds” at area hotels by attracting more show goers and more marine manufacturers supporting the event.

“The NEBS is poised to be a world class marine industry event if hosted at the taxpayer-funded BCEC,” stated the trade association. “The entire Commonwealth would benefit greatly from the NEBS finding a home at the BCEC: small businesses based beyond Boston, including Western Massachusetts and the Cape and Islands, would be given the opportunity to exhibit at the show and to enjoy their economic investments in the City of Boston through tax dollars directed at the Big Dig and BCEC construction and related salaries.

“Opening the BCEC to the New England Boat Show will not only help hundreds of Massachusetts businesses, it will keep good jobs in Massachusetts through the patronization of the BCEC, a facility built with and funded by our tax dollars. Passage of HB4153 would be a win-win situation for the Commonwealth, its citizens and business owners.”

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