Convention attendees get on the water in Fla., N.C.
Marine industry touted by trade organizations in Tampa, Charlotte
The Personal Watercraft Industry Association, American Watercraft Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association took advantage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions to promote the boating industry and tout its impact on the U.S. economy.
An estimated 100 Republican delegates and representatives from numerous states — including Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas and numerous delegates from Georgia, Florida and North Carolina — gathered on Aug. 28 at Tampa’s Hula Bay Club. They listened to NMMA members portray the boating industry as not only a fun, family-oriented activity, but also one that has a key economic impact.
Important ideas driven home were the fact that the recreational boating industry has an estimated $72 billion annual impact on the economy and provides 350,000 direct jobs. Delegates and members of Congress were urged to implement policy that makes it possible for small industry businesses to provide jobs to their local communities. Several NMMA members were also on hand to tell the stories of why they have kept their manufacturing businesses on U.S. soil.
The always-important topics of ethanol and boating safety were also on the agenda. The arrival of E15 on the boating scene was singled out as being a danger to the marine industry. Fuel manufacturer Gevo, Inc. was on hand to help educate those in attendance about joint research conducted with the NMMA that shows how ethanol is having a negative effect on the recreational boating industry. The company currently makes an alternative biofuel, isobutanol. Sea Tow also addressed the safety issue, offering tips on what to do in cases of engine failure or a vessel stranding. The NMMA also touted its support of mandatory boater education and provided examples of PFD styles, emergency signals, GPS equipment and other safety tips.
Due to the impact of Tropical Storm Isaac, the event was forced to scale down from its original goals as several manufacturers and dealers were unable to transport boats to neighboring docks.
PWC industry offers test ride
No such threat diminished activities of the following day. In addition to the broader-focused NMMA event, the PWIA, AWA and Kawasaki, Sea-Doo and Yamaha combined to offer popular demo rides during a lunchtime reception Aug. 29.
The goal? To educate the visitors to the realities of the modern PWC through hands-on experience in hopes that the opportunity would both enlighten them, destroy some long-held myths and make an impact with future policy decisions.
“Any chance we get to dispel the myths perpetrated by environmental extremists, we take it,” explained AWA head Chris Manthos, who was on hand to speak to attendees. “As any PWC owner will tell you, it only takes one ride to change a mind. That was certainly the case here today. Any exposure to personal watercraft is a positive, particularly for new riders. The smiles say it all when these folks come back in after their ride.
“These delegates came here to nominate their candidates. But I’m willing to bet they’ll consider the opportunity to ride a modern PWC a big highlight of their trip here to Tampa.”
The afternoon event drew nearly 200 RNC attendees to the waters of Tampa Bay, including members of Congress and delegates from the Western Caucus and states.
“Many of these folks said they had ridden in the past, but they all looked like they just had their very first ride,” Manthos said. “That’s what a modern personal watercraft will do.”
Cycle Springs in Clearwater provided Yamaha WaveRunners; Manthos personally picked up two WaveRunners from Yamaha on his way from Washington, D.C., and LOOK Marketing’s Tim McKercher brought four Sea-Doos and a jet boat from Melbourne, Fla.
“We gave about 40 rides,” Freeman McCue’s John Donaldson said. “As usual, all the riders came back to the beach with a big smile.”
Following the Tampa event, all of the organizations in attendance headed north to Charlotte, N.C., where they offered a similar program for attendees at the Democratic National Convention.