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May. 21, 2018
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Economic outlook positive for boating, marine industry and recreation

By Pamela A. Keene
 
The news was positive when representatives of the National Marine Manufacturers Association met with federal, state and local officials and stakeholders during the Atlanta Boat Show.
 
“Boating participation in 2016 significantly increased over 2014 to more than 142 million people,” said Nicole Vasilaros, vice president of Federal and Legal Affairs with the NMMA. “Of those, 17 million were first-time boaters. Thirty-two percent of those first-time boats were Hispanic and 8.5 million first-time participants were children under age 18.”
 
She also reported that retail spending on boating increased by $1 billion from 2016 to 2017, topping out at $37 billion across the country. That’s up from $27 billion in 2010. 
 
“Georgia was ranked No. 9 in sales of new powerboats, engines, trailers and accessories for 2016, and 11 percent increase, representing $551 million,” she said. “As a top boating state, Georgia’s recreational boating industry has an annual economic impact of more than $3.3 billion, supporting nearly 18,000 American jobs and 661 businesses.” 
 
Looking at the membership of NMMA in the state, there are seven boatbuilders, three engine manufacturers, 15 accessory and component manufacturers. 
 
“The top three boating activities in Georgia are fishing, swimming and entertaining,” she said. “Georgia is 12th in retail spending for fishing, with $1.1 billion spent annually on fishing and related purchases.” 
 
The NMMA reports that boating trends are making it even more appealing for new boaters to participate. “Because of the versatility of boat types, we’re seeing more families, plus there are more boat clubs and shared ownership programs to help get new people into boating.”
 
Vasilaros compared shared boating to the trends of Airbnb’s and Ubers, where people are looking for a shared economic model. On Lanier, companies like Sailtime, Freedom Boat Club and Carefree Boat Club provide shared access to different types of boats.
 
Legislative agenda 
One of the roles of the NMMA is governmental affairs, advocating for positive industry legislation.
 
“Georgia has long been a national leader in boating safety, including mandatory boater safety requirements, strong drunk-boating laws and mandatory life jackets for kids,” Vasilaros said. “Although it didn’t pass the Georgia General Assembly in the 2017 session, we are hopeful that boat titling will move forward in Georgia and other states. The benefits are good for consumers, who have more flexible loan opportunities, for law enforcement, and dealers to protect them from taking stolen boats in trade.”
 
Nationally, the NMMA is monitoring actions regarding taxes, the environment and issues that may affect materials and boat building, particularly the import of aluminum from China, where the US Department of Commerce is seeking a 60 percent increase in the import tariff. “This could be a substantial hit to manufacturing and could impact the marine industry,” Vasilaros said. Recreational fishing is also on the NMMA’s agenda for 2018. 
 
To learn more about the boating industry and the National Marine Manufacturing Association, visit www.nmma.org.

Posted online 1/29/18
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