MDCE exceeds expectations

ORLANDO – When the three-day 2009 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo (MDCE) came to a close on Nov. 18, not only had the show grown substantially by all measurable indicators, the educational content and networking opportunities had set off a wave of business improvements that will continue to positively impact participants for months to come.

“Even though we entered the MDCE with a strong belief that it would be one of the most well-attended national dealer conventions on record,” explained Matt Gruhn, associate publisher of Boating Industry magazine, “it’s fair to say that it surpassed all of our expectations on every level. With nearly three times as many attendees as last year’s event, nearly twice as many exhibitors, and more than twice as much educational content, the attendees saw a huge return on their investment.”

This year’s MDCE, which took place at Disney’s Coronado Spring Resort in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 16-18, attracted 743 total attendees, an increase of 199 percent over 2008. Of those total attendees, 439 were dealership personnel, an increase of 122 percent over 2008, and 228 individual dealerships were represented. In addition, 75 companies exhibited during the show, filling 58,000 square feet of exhibit space, which also represented a substantial increase over 2008.

The 2009 event represented the first in a five-year licensing contract through which Boating Industry magazine took over responsibility for the creation and development of the Marine Retailers Association of America’s (MRAA) annual dealer convention, working closely with the MRAA convention committee to deliver educational content, while also assuming sponsorship sales and marketing efforts.

“I’m extremely excited about the overwhelming success of this year’s conference,” says John Vallely, Jr., chairman of the MRAA’s MDCE Convention Committee. “We feel very strongly that the educational value was dead-on for these challenging times. The atmosphere proved to be a great opportunity for dealers from all across North America to network with each other and learn new ideas to be successful in this market. And the fact that we had 75 exhibitors representing many boat builders and suppliers speaks volumes for the excitement and commitment that this conference brings — both now and in the future for both dealers and suppliers.”

Here are just a few examples of what MDCE attendees and exhibitors had to say:

“Not only was it the best attended MRAA event, it was easily the most informative and more importantly, most invigorating,” said Don MacKenzie, Boats Inc. “The keynote speaker, Rob Morton, made an incredible impact on me, and on my return, I have already begun developing a new philosophy and strategy for Boats Incorporated. You have to know you are on to something very special to get that type of turnout in probably the worst economy this industry has ever seen.”

“The convention was the most positive vibe and momentum I have felt in the marine industry in years,” said John Spader, MDCE speaker, and president of Spader Business Management.

“Normally, a work conference like this will leave me exhausted and depleted of energy,” said Joni Giordano, national dealer consultant for Boat Trader, “but this conference has me energized and more enthusiastic than ever about being a part of this amazing industry.”

“The significant increase in registrations is a testament to the strong marketing efforts,” said Larry Russo, Russo Marine. “The conference agenda was packed with top-notch presenters with excellent takeaways for sales, service, marketing and finance.”

“It was a great event and something truly exciting for our industry,” said Steve Russell, Smoker Craft/Starcraft. “I was very encouraged by the number of participants and the conversations surrounding the conference. I think the good word will only spread and I’m already looking forward to next year’s gathering.”

The 2010 MDCE is tentatively scheduled to take place Nov. 15-17 in Orlando, Fla. The location will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Plans are already underway for next year’s conference,” Vallely says, “and we can promise that the educational content will be new, fresh and targeted for the market in 2010.”

For more information on the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, visit

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