A fourth buying group – the American Marine Manufacturers Group (AMMG) – was recently created to serve independent boat builders.

Boating Industry interviewed the new group’s president, Linda Williams, to learn why the group was created, what niche it will serve and how Williams is connected to the industry.

Boating Industry: Why do you think the industry needs another buying group?

Linda Williams: The answer to your question is two fold: control and options.

There is the need for the creation of an alternative group that is builder-owned and controlled. Most of the independent boat builders started as a “one man operation” and have subsequently expanded production. Out of this entrepreneurial spirit has evolved a desire to maintain an atmosphere of self-determination. What we offer builders is an opportunity to belong to a group that is builder-owned and builder-controlled.

Second, our industry continues to grow and expand with new entrants into the market and expansion of existing product lines. Currently, there are limited options for builders who are either unaffiliated or want to make a change in their affiliation. If an existing group does not extend an offer of membership then a smaller independent builder may find themselves having to operate without the benefit of pooled purchasing power. Our goal is not to take away anything from the existing groups, but rather to give manufacturers a chance to select from a range of possible options.

Boating Industry: What needs can your group fulfill that the three current groups aren’t already filling?

Linda Williams: I think that the answer to this question lies with the builders. As I have spoken with boat builders over the past month several issues have arisen that certainly could be addressed by a new group. Foremost of course is the idea that the builders ultimately control all of the decisions affecting the group. Other issues such as engines, financing, raw material markets and the formation of specialty sub-groups (i.e. cruising yachts, non-power craft) have all been discussed. There is also a great need throughout the industry for process specific affordable training and development of the workforce. This is not to say that the other groups are lacking in these areas, rather, that what we are offering is an opportunity for manufacturers to create a group that is tailor made to fit their needs.

Boating Industry: Is there a certain segment of the market that you are targeting? Each of the three current groups focuses on a different size of boat builder.

Linda Williams: The greatest opportunity for our group is a small to mid-size independent builder, although we will certainly welcome manufacturers of any size. We realize that for some boat builders changing affiliations is not something that they would consider. For those manufacturers who are content with their current affiliation, we encourage them to support their group 100%. Our target market is those builders who are not affiliated, either by omission or by intention and those who are seeking to change the status quo. In addition, geographically there are several areas of the country where there is no buying group presence. We hope to move into those regions and offer builders a chance to pool their resources and take advantage of the enhanced purchasing power of a group.

Boating Industry: What is your background? Do you have marine industry experience and connections?

Linda Williams: I come to this project from a slightly different perspective. Although my background is not exclusive to the marine industry, as a business owner in another industry for many years I have experiential knowledge of what it takes to make a business successful. My most recent position thrust me into the marine industry when North Carolina saw an explosion of boat manufacturers throughout the State. Through my position with the local Community College and the NC Community College System at large, I was able to assist a number of manufacturers in workforce development, training and education to support their expansion efforts. Along the way I developed a love for the industry – both the people and the process, and have remained active in my involvement with both builders and suppliers.

What makes me uniquely well suited for the position of director of a marine purchasing group is a combination of my industry experience and business education. In order to better serve my clients I have actively sought out additional training and education in the marine manufacturing process. The ABYC Course is a good example of this, and I hope to receive the CCT Certification before the fall. Manufacturers throughout North Carolina are currently using many of the initiatives and programs I designed and implemented.

In short – I know business, boats and boat building.

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