When I heard last week that the rumors were true – the International Boatbuilder Exhibition & Conference would be moving to Kentucky in 2010 – I found myself smiling. Now, there’s no doubt I’m biased; my dad lives about an hour from Louisville. But above and beyond that, a once a year trek to South Beach for the Miami boat show is plenty for me.
I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the change. The main complaint seems to be that Kentucky isn’t exactly boating central. You can’t argue with that. The state ranked 30th in dollars spent on boating in 2008 and 28th in boat registrations, compared to Florida, which claimed the No. 1 spots in both rankings last year.
Thom Dammrich, president of IBEX co-producer, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, points out that it’s a small state. While I’m sure its sales and registrations per capita can’t compete with South Florida, they would tell a different story than the state rankings, he suggests. That matches my gut instinct. My dad lives on a lake, and the boating scene seems pretty active there.
Either way, I’m not sure local boat ownership data really makes a difference at a show like IBEX. In all my years of attendance, I’ve never stepped foot on a boat during the trip. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I don’t think so.
If you’re sad about giving up views of the water from your favorite hotel or restaurant, cheer up. Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio River, and it has its fair share of nice hotels and restaurants to choose from. Check out www.gotolouisville.com for more information about the food, lodging and entertainment the city has to offer. There’s no doubt the city has an entirely different feel than South Beach, but it has its own charm.
In addition, Louisville claims to be within a day’s drive of 50 percent of the U.S. population. And given the way marine companies have spread themselves across the country, I have to believe it’s the same distance or closer than Miami for the majority of exhibitors and attendees.
Dammrich points out that a significant percentage of show attendees tend to come from within a 100- to 150-mile circumference of the show location. In Miami, most of that circumference was water. Now, that certainly didn’t seem to keep the show from attracting attendees from across North America and around the world, but perhaps the Kentucky-based show will do even better. When IBEX producers had narrowed down the location to three cities in the southeast and Midwest, a committee member plotted where all NMMA members’ boat units were produced. Louisville was the clear winner with the largest number of units manufactured within driving distance of the city, according to Dammrich.
Finally – and most importantly in these times – there are the cost-savings that will go along with the move. Not only will exhibit space be cheaper in Kentucky, so will lodging and food. With cash flow the No. 1 metric our industry’s businesses are tracking to measure their success these days, every little bit helps. The less expensive the show is, the more people will come, as least that’s what I’m betting on.
While I’m not a particularly big fan of clogging (the state dance), bluegrass (the state music) or horse racing, if the industry is there, I’ll be there. As the Kentucky state motto says, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
Don’t get me wrong. I like a walk on the beach as much as the next person. But what sets the mood at IBEX are the people who you connect with and the new ideas and products they bring to the table, not the view from your hotel. So, my question for you is: will you be there?