From tax policy to environmental regulations to the Renewable Fuel Standard, the government is making it more difficult to do business in the boating industry, say a majority of Boating Industry readers.
That’s according to the latest Boating Industry reader survey of dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and others in the industry. We asked the readers of our print and digital products about their top issues and gathered their insights on the role of government in the boating industry. The survey was conducted by email in February.
The full results will appear in the April issue of Boating Industry as part of our annual government issue.
Fifty-six percent of readers said they are very concerned about the role of the government in their business, while another 31 percent said they were at least somewhat concerned.
A majority of respondents – 56 percent – said that government regulations have specifically hurt their ability to grow their business in the last year. They cited a variety of specific examples, but the most common impediments were environmental regulations, restricted access to fisheries, local zoning or permitting issues and tax policies that have hurt their customers.
“The State of California just keeps closing more and more areas to fishing,” said a California-based manufacturer. “The only boat launch for miles in Newport Beach is closed 6 to 8 times over the summer for other events and the push for more and more environmental restrictions is killing us.”
At the same time, local permitting challenges are making growing business difficult, a challenge cited by marina owners, dealers and manufacturers in this year’s survey.
“The time and expense of permitting basic operations and maintenance are terribly high and uncertain,” said a Massachusetts-based supplier. “Investment in growth seems impossible to achieve.”
A marina construction firm echoed that sentiment: “Regulation at the state, [federal] and in some cases local departments take at least one year for simple projects such as repairs or replacements exactly as the dock is presently built. A new facility or changes to existing facility will add anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. The typical new marina project takes 2 to 4 years to permit. Our industry is just behind getting a nuclear plant permitted!”
The most important result of all these challenges is that they are driving up the cost of doing business, and making boating less affordable. Dozens of respondents said they are concerned that government policies are making boating unattainable for the middle class.
“Environmental policies are increasing prices of boating beyond the average boaters budget,” said a Virginia dealer, in a representative comment.
Ethanol No. 1 worry
Ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard are clearly the top concerns among regulatory issues.
Sixty percent of respondents said they are very concerned about challenges ethanol poses to their business, while another 35 percent are at least somewhat concerned. Ethanol was also picked by the most readers – 28 percent – as their top government and regulatory issue.
In their comments, readers mentioned a number of concerns, but the most notable worry is the potential for increased damage to boat engines and other components from misfueling with E15. The result, many said, will be boaters getting discouraged and leaving the sport.
“Repair costs have been rising and the additional expense of fuel system repairs due to ethanol related has driven many from boat ownership,” said a Florida dealer. “Less boat owners means less business.”
Environmental regulations were second on the list of concerns, with 18 percent citing it as the most important issue for their business. Forty-three percent are very concerned about it and 98 percent are at least somewhat concerned – the highest total for any issue.
Tax policy was also a top concern, with 48 percent saying they were very concerned about it, and 94 percent being at least somewhat concerned. Seventeen percent said it was the most important issue to their business.