MDCE to kick off behind record growth

For the second-consecutive year, the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo is set to kick off with monumental growth. More than 660 people — marking more than 166-percent growth over 2008 — have pre-registered for the event, which takes place at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando beginning this coming Monday, Nov. 16.

More than 410 dealers have pre-registered for the event, as well, which means the total dealer attendance will be more than double that of the 2008 event. And what’s more, in 2008 every category of dealer attendance was twice that of 2007, including total dealerships represented, total dealership personnel and total Top 100 Dealers.

“Every measurable indicator suggests that this year’s Marine Dealer Conference & Expo will be an incredible success,” says Matt Gruhn, associate publisher of Boating Industry magazine, which took over responsibility for the creation and development of the annual convention through a five-year contract with the Marine Retailers Association of America. “Our convention committee and MRAA leadership has worked tirelessly to build an educational agenda that appeals to dealers across North America and seeks to arm them with the strategies, tools and know-how to fight off the economic downturn and re-solidify their businesses for the opportunities that lie ahead. At the same time, the industry at large has turned out in impressive fashion to support the mission of this program.”

A total of 71 marine industry suppliers have signed up to sponsor and exhibit at this year’s event, including 22 boat builders. Only nine boat builders and 43 total exhibitors supported last year’s event.

In fact, boat builders such as Regal Marine, Correct Craft and the Smoker Craft family of products are hosting separate events surrounding the MDCE in an effort to encourage their dealers to maximize their travel dollars by attending both events. Similarly, two of the industry’s leading 20 Group facilitators — Spader Business Management and Parker Business Planning — are hosting meetings on the front and back end of the event, and MarineMax is hosting a company meeting, after which all of its store managers will attend the MDCE.

“We’ve said from the start that the MDCE will be the must-attend marine industry event of the year,” says Ed Lofgren, owner of 3A Marine Service and chairman of the MRAA board of directors. “Boat dealers of all sizes and from all across the country see clearly that this program has been designed to help them prosper, despite the economic climate, and the suppliers that are supporting them, are focused on aligning themselves with the industry’s leading dealers — the survivors of this downturn.”

Content is king
To match the growth in attendance, the 2009 MDCE has also doubled the amount of content available to dealers, offering two concurrent educational sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday of the event. Monday evening will feature a keynote presentation, delivered by the Disney Institute, for all attendees; Tuesday and Wednesday morning will offer two concurrent educational tracks, with seven total sessions focused on sales and marketing, five sessions devoted to dealer service departments, and two sessions that focus on commercial and retail lending.

Under the theme of GPS: Growth, Profitability and Solutions for Navigating Today’s Market, the content focuses on helping dealers prepare for what’s ahead. The Sales & Marketing track for example, kicks off with a presentation titled “The Dealership of Tomorrow” and features other forward-looking topics such as “The Future of Selling” before it concludes with “Moving On: The Survivor’s Edition.”

The final two panels, which will be held in front of the entire audience, will feature industry-leading boat builders and suppliers alongside dealers, as they discuss some of the most critical topics that both ends of the supply chain must partner on and discuss for a better future in the marine industry. Dealer panelists for those two sessions include Bill McGill, MarineMax; Jerry Brouwer, Action Water Sports; Rod Malone, Sail & Ski Centers; Alan Bohling, Seattle Boat Co.; and Randy Kelly, Kelly’s Port. Manufacturer panelists include Dusty McCoy, Brunswick Corp.; Duane Kuck, Regal Marine; Clint Moore, Volvo Penta; Phil Smoker, Smoker Craft, and Bill Yeargin, Correct Craft.

Similarly, the program will feature four other interactive panel discussions, three among dealers and one among the lending community. Two service panels will focus their discussions on service department pay plans and efficiency and secrets to service department success. On the first panel, Bob Schwartz of ADP/Performance, Inc. will join dealers Doug Malone, Sail & Ski Centers; Carlton Phillips, Prince William Marine Sales; and Ed Alf III, Sea Ray of Cincinnati. The second panel will feature Marine Industry Certified Dealerships Colorado Boat Center, Marine Center of Indiana and South Shore Marine.

The lending panel will feature Bruce Van Wagoner, GE Capital Solutions; Ralph Ross, Small Business Administration; Jim Coburn, National Marine Bankers Association; and Scott Anderson, Merrick Bank. The session will be moderated by Bill Thompson of Cardinal Points Network.

“We are thrilled to be able to deliver the incredible value that this educational line-up offers,” says John Vallely, Jr., chairman of the MDCE convention committee. “From start to finish, this event will deliver a return on investment that will be unmatched in the marine industry.”

You may still register for the MDCE by clicking here and downloading the registration form. Then fax it to Lori Hackett at 763-383-4499. Onsite registration will be available through 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday at the South Registration desk. To view the full schedule of events, click here.

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