Yesterday NMMA kicked off the first day of its annual advocacy event, the 2021 virtual American Boating Congress (ABC). The association welcomed nearly 400 attendees and an impressive lineup of speakers, including members of Congress, chiefs of staff, and directors of offices of outdoor recreation (OREC) from around the country. Throughout the initial day of programming, NMMA member companies and industry stakeholders listened in as speakers discussed some of the most pressing policy concerns for the industry today — from trade and tariffs to infrastructure, supply chain disruptions, and more.
To commence ABC 2021, NMMA presented the 2021 Legislator of the Year Award to Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL-21) for her laudable service and advocacy on behalf of the recreational boating industry. As co-chair of the Congressional Boating Caucus, Rep. Frankel has been instrumental over the past year in pushing forward industry priorities and ensuring that the strong economic momentum seen during the pandemic continues to build.
NMMA President Frank Hugelmeyer kicked off the day with opening remarks, emphasizing that ABC 2021 could not have come at a more critical time for the industry. This served as an entry into the first policymaker discussion of the day, where NMMA welcomed two distinguished recreational boating champions: Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC-01) and Representative Pete Stauber (R-MN-08). During the discussion, Rep. Mace reiterated the need to protect our environment to ensure that our nation's waterways are preserved for recreational boaters and anglers for years to come. Rep. Stauber echoed many of these sentiments, noting that his district in Minnesota has more registered boats than any other district in the country. Given the immense economic benefits of recreational boating, both Rep. Stauber and Rep. Mace noted that their offices stand ready to help pass legislation that bolsters the outdoor recreation industry.
Following the members of Congress, NMMA was joined by a dynamic bipartisan chief of staff duo to discuss current work in the U.S. Senate that impacts the recreational boating industry. Kaleb Froehlich, chief of staff to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Lance West, chief of staff to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), touched on the need to quickly resolve trade disputes and actively address climate change and its impacts on our nation's public lands and waters. A strong underlying theme of the discussion was the responsibility they have to work across the aisle, particularly on topics critical to the recreational boating community, as was done with the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) in 2020. On an advocacy level, the chiefs of staff referenced the important work NMMA has done to show the impacts of the boating industry on regional economies.
Senator Angus King (I-ME) and Representative John Katko (R-NY-24) offered remarks following the panel discussion. Both members have worked diligently to make sure the recreational boating industry has a strong, resilient water infrastructure, such as Rep. Katko's introduction of the SHORE Act, which will help provide additional funding for smaller harbors that are critical to the recreational boating community.
To offer insight on the year ahead, Nicole Vasilaros, NMMA Senior Vice President of Government and Legal Affairs, led the next section on 2021's pressing policy updates affecting the recreational boating industry at large. Nicole's overview highlighted the work to be done on the state and federal levels this year to move the boating industry's priorities forward, including expanding access for recreational boating and outdoor recreation, preserving our nation's lands, reversing damaging tariffs, and addressing supply chain and workforce disruptions. Nicole was optimistic about the industry's abilities to ramp up its ongoing advocacy work to ensure these goals are met and continue to strengthen the industry's relationships in Congress.
The day closed out with a panel discussion with three directors of offices of outdoor recreation (ORECs) representing North Carolina, Michigan, and Colorado. Amy Allison, Brad Garmon, and Nathan Fey each offered a peek into the main outdoor recreation priorities facing their respective states, emphasizing the common theme that outdoor recreation is an invaluable component of their states' overall economic development and growth.
NMMA owes much of the success of today's ABC 2021 event to its sponsors, co-hosts, and committed boating industry stakeholders.
ABC 2021 continues today, April 22 at 1:30 pm. Interested participants may register at this link. Tomorrow’s programming includes remarks from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, White House senior policy advisor Cedric Richmond, and members of Congress representing both chambers.