Interview with AMI Chairman Gregg Kenney


Boating Industry: As the chairman of one of the industry’s leading associations, your background is of particular interest to our readers. Can you share with us how many years you’ve worked in the marine industry?

Gregg Kenney: I became involved in the marine industry in 1993.

Boating Industry: How did you become involved in this industry?

Gregg Kenney: I joined the US Navy in 1972 as a deck seaman and was promoted through the ranks until 1982 when I was then selected for an Officers Candidate Program. I served as a navigator, deck officer and weapons officer on a wide variety of ships, including cruisers, destroyers and carriers. During my last tour of duty in Charleston, S.C., I became interested in the marina industry and upon completing 20 years of service I took a position as the harbor master of a small marina in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

A few years later, I had the opportunity work with Westrec Marinas and assumed duties as the general manager of a marina resort in the Florida Keys. I found this to be an immensely rewarding experience as the job was a challenge and encompassed hotel and restaurant operations as well as two marinas. Along the way, I attended the IMI’s advanced marina management school and eventually achieved the designation of “Certified Marina Manager” or CMM. As you know, the marina industry is a small community and many of us say “that at one time or another” many of us have had the great experience of being “Westrec trained.” It is a great organization.

Then, in 1998, the resort in the Keys was being sold and an opportunity was presented to be part of a team of professional operators in Dallas that was getting ready to do a consolidation play on marinas. I was offered the position of vice president of marina operations with Marinas International. During the next few years, Marinas International acquired 16 marinas, and had 4 more under management. Those were also very rewarding and challenging times.

Boating Industry: What company do you currently work for?

Gregg Kenney: I currently work for Flagship Marinas, LLC, a company that has 10 marinas and 7,000 slip customers in 7 states.

Boating Industry: What are your title and responsibilities at that company?

Gregg Kenney: I am the president of the company, responsible for all aspects of the business operations.

Boating Industry: Who has served as a role model or example for you in your professional development?

Gregg Kenney: I would have to say there were several. Back in the early 1990s, Bill Anderson, president of Westrec Marinas, and Jim Frye, CMM, at that time a vice president with Westrec, provided me with the management opportunity in the Florida Keys. Working with others at Westrec – Alex Laidlaw, CMM, Melanie Tank, CMM, and many more – proved to be professionally and personally enriching. And then at Marinas International, Marshall Funk and Stan Johnson, co-owners of MI, were and remain great sounding boards.


Boating Industry: Congratulations on being selected as chairman of your association. What would you say is your No. 1 goal in your new position? Why is that goal so important to you?

Gregg Kenney: My goal will be to work with the Board of Directors and the AMI staff to set the foundation for the AMI. We have a top notch group of professionals at the AMI staff level in Washington, D.C., and under Jim Frye’s leadership as president of the association, we are already making great strides in organization and communication to our members. My number one goal will be to ensure our members are well served and represented at all levels.

Boating Industry: What skills do you possess that will allow you to achieve that goal and other goals within the association?

Gregg Kenney: Leadership, with over 20 years of maritime experience and now 13 years in the marina business. I have been hands on, from the deckplate to the corner office.

Boating Industry: What kind of a leader would you describe yourself as?

Gregg Kenney: Coach, decision maker

Boating Industry: Why did you decide to serve as chairman of your association?

Gregg Kenney: I served on the board of directors for the IMI and also served as president during the consolidation with MOAA, so when the new AMI board asked me to serve as chairman, I accepted and felt I would bring the leadership and continuity for the work that will be done over the next few years.


Boating Industry: How would you describe the role of your association in the industry at large?

Gregg Kenney: To promote the general welfare of the boating facilities industry and to promote communications among owners and operators of marinas for the purposes of sharing information, promotion of understanding, finding acceptable solutions or resolutions of problems faced by the marina industry, and obtaining the best means of providing services to users of marinas.

Boating Industry: How is your association perceived by the industry at large? Are these perceptions fair?

Gregg Kenney: Well, with AMI we are brand new, but the feedback we are already getting is very positive. This is evidenced by the recent IMC conference held in San Diego, which was immensely successful and had the highest attendance ever for a marina conference.

Boating Industry: What are the association’s strengths and weaknesses?

Gregg Kenney: At this point, I don’t see any weaknesses. The cup is half full with great opportunities to serve our members. Our strengths lie in our people. We have a great team at AMI and a new board of directors with well-grounded experience in the marina business.


Boating Industry: What are the three biggest challenges the industry as a whole faces today and what should be done to overcome them?

Gregg Kenney: One of the biggest challenges facing the industry today is a lack of growth, There are a number of factors contributing to this that need to be addressed to correct the situation. First, we aren’t attracting new customers as fast as we’re losing them to other recreational interests or worse yet, other life priorities. We need to expand the net that we’re casting to attract younger people and, in some cases, older, retired folks, and we need to look beyond the traditional stereotypes to include more minorities, women and less traditional audiences.

Second, we need to do a better job retaining the customers that we have attracted by improving our products and services. Boats need to be of the highest quality that we can afford. Services from all segments of the industry must be improved, and we need to increase professionalism through training and education both in technical skills and management. The need for quality educational programming in our industry is becoming increasingly important.

Finally, we’re losing access to America’s waters. Waterfront is finite, and we’re losing boating facilities to other developments and to pressures from environmentalist that would preserve waterfronts by precluding their use by the public. We need a comprehensive plan to encourage the development of boating facilities and the preservation and upgrading of existing facilities.

Boating Industry: What are the three biggest opportunities the industry has to improve itself in the future and what should be done to take advantage of them?

Gregg Kenney: Increasing professionalism and profitability will improve our products and services overall. Baby boomers present a terrific opportunity for growing boating if we market correctly to them and then support them in their boating experiences. The turmoil overseas also presents the best opportunity to keep folks close to home and to make boating a priority choice for those wishing to enjoy family and recreation close to home. A strengthening economy also presents opportunity for the boating industry. So long as interest rates remain comparatively low and consumer confidence is on the rise, we have an excellent chance to attract folks to boating.

Boating Industry: What impact do you believe the Grow Boating Initiative will have on our industry?

Gregg Kenney: It should have a very positive impact. It will likely start slowly and take some time to really be felt, but getting boating into the mainstream advertising should impact not only sales of boats but use of existing boats as well. Bringing boating to a “top of mind” awareness should positively impact all facets of waterfront recreation. If we get people thinking about being on the water then actually getting there should be a greater priority, and with any luck the manifestation of that change in priority will be a new or re-energized boater.

Boating Industry: What main ingredients are required to ensure the success of the Grow Boating Initiative?

Gregg Kenney: Commitment from every segment of the industry and from every business in the industry. To be successful, we’ll have to agree that we’re making an investment for the long haul, and we’ll have to hang together for an extended period of time to make this program work. Trust and the realization that pulling together will enhance each individual operator and all segments of the industry. Faith and confidence in those that have taken on the leadership of the initiative and asked for support in that endeavor.

Boating Industry: Is dealer certification integral to the success of the Grow Boating Initiative and ultimately the industry at large? Should it even be part of the initiative? Why or why not?

Gregg Kenney: Yes, dealer certification is important because it’s the dealer that sets the stage for the boating experience and creates the expectations for a new boater. Trained, professional and certified dealers are imperative to improving the buying and use experience for boaters.

Boating Industry: How has the dumping issue impacted your business, if at all?

Gregg Kenney: It hasn’t really. We’re not too involved in sales directly, and so it hasn’t impacted our segment of the industry.

Boating Industry: What effect has the dumping debate had on the marine industry?

Gregg Kenney: It hasn’t helped any with our perception, but I don’t think that it’s hurt us too much.

Boating Industry: How do you feel about Brunswick’s acquisition strategy? Do you feel it is healthy for the industry? Why or why not?

Gregg Kenney: Brunswick has the resources to improve the industry overall, and if they invest them wisely, we can all benefit. Although competition is important and fundamental in the development and improvement of our products, it frequently takes deep pockets to create long-term improvements and growth. Brunswick appears to be taking a macro look at ways to grow, improve and preserve its industry share by growing the whole industry. Let’s hope for some real leadership from the management at Brunswick.

Boating Industry: Putting yourself in the shoes of a consumer, what do you think are the three best things and three worst things about being a boater today?

Gregg Kenney: The three best things: you can still get out on the water and away from it all with family and friends; you can still afford the boating experience from most economical levels; and products and services are improving in the boating industry. The three worst: access points are disappearing; some places one waits too long to get into the water; increasing regulation is driving up the cost for services; and boaters are still waiting too long for repairs and services to get them back out on the water to enjoy the already limited time they have available to boat.

Boating Industry: What companies or organizations inside our industry are setting the best examples for how we as an industry should be doing business?

Gregg Kenney: Manufacturers like Grady White, Cobalt and Sea Ray. Dealers like Russo Marine and MarineMax. And marinas like those owned by Flagship, Westrec, Brewer and Marinas International.

Boating Industry: What companies or organizations outside our industry are setting the best examples for how we should be doing business?

Gregg Kenney: Harley-Davidson, Lexus, Southwest Airlines and the RV industry overall.

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