The Next Generation

Young leaders who are shaping the boating industry

One of the top challenges in the marine industry these days is getting young people taking part in all aspects of the industry, from the dealer side all the way down to the buyers.

The Young Leaders Advisory Council of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas is one group that is trying to tackle that problem by getting more under-40 members of the industry involved.

Started in 2009, the YLAC was an effort to bring a different perspective and new ideas to MRAA, and combat the idea of the association as an “old boys club.”

The group has sparked many new initiatives in the association from improvements to the MRAA website and marketing efforts to new membership benefits, said MRAA President Matt Gruhn.

Another initiative from the YLAC was the creation of a Young Professionals Community. Launched at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in 2012, the community offers a way for even more young people in the industry to get involved and learn. More than 100 people attended the kick-off meeting at MDCE. Surveys of the attendees after the meeting found the biggest need they identified was online learning opportunities.

“We’re working right now to create those,” Gruhn said. “We’re going to couple the online opportunities with in-person opportunities because we really feel like a big part of the Young Professionals Community is the networking and idea sharing among those young professionals.”

The initiatives are working well so far, helping to drive more interest in the industry and association from younger people. Click below to read profiles of the 14 members of the Young Leaders Advisory Council, as well as find out what they see as the biggest challenges facing the industry today – and how we can address them.

Mike Alleva
– Vice President of Marketing and Client Strategy, Lighthouse Media Solutions – Boston
Martin Boyer – Vice President, Austin Boats & Motors – Austin, Texas
Gordon Brittle – Canadian District Manager, Smoker Craft/Starcraft Family of Products – Ontario, Canada
Jeff Haradine – President, Wakeside Marine – Elkhart, Ind.
Stephanie Haywood
– Owner, Blue Springs Boat Company – Kington, Tenn.
Ryan Hebert – Administrator, Texas Marine – North Beaumont, Texas
Jake Jostand Sales Manager, Oak Hill Marina – Arnold’s Park, Iowa
Chris Kewley General Manager, Nobles Marine – Leesburg, Fla.
Greg Knop
General Manager, Family Boating Centers – Tampa
Craig LeBlanc Vice President & General Manager, Allen Harbor Marine Service – Harwich Port, Mass.
Eric Smith Operations Manager, Colorado Boat Center – Loveland, Colo.
Chad M. Taylor
Vice President, Taylor’s South Shore Marina – Wilmington, Ohio
Josh Vallely Sales Manager, Vallely Sport & Marine – Bismarck, N.D.
Lauren Woodard-Splatt General Manager, Woodard Marine – Hydeville, Vt.

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