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Sweeping changes already in place at the MRAA

The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas is undergoing sweeping changes and the results are being recognized by retailers around the U.S. and Canada.

“Our non-group-member roster has increased 92 percent,” MRAA president Matt Gruhn says, “and that’s just since February. We’re aggressively expanding our scope and activities and it’s obviously resonating, especially with dealers, throughout the industry.”

Since Gruhn assumed the leadership of MRAA last November, the expansion has been steadily unfolding. For example, the membership structure has been remodeled and an entirely new membership program dubbed “MRAA Rewards” has been instituted. It has already more than doubled the number of benefits offered to members and, Gruhn says: “We’re just getting started. You can expect additional announcements during the remainder of this year. In fact, we anticipate unveiling up to three big new member benefits during this summer,” he says.

Another major new program – the Norman-Spencer Marine Retail University – is ready for launch. It is jointly produced by the MRAA and Dominion Marine Media. It’s designed to be a high-powered “professional development series” that will deliver market-specific data and trends to state and regional audiences, in addition to training on how to take advantage of that data. This year’s first MRU will be hosted Oct. 21-22 by the Boating Trades Association of Texas in San Antonio. Two more MRUs will follow this year: Nov. 11 in Orlando, Fla., hosted by the Marine Industries Association of Central Florida; and Dec. 5-6 in Lansing, Mich., hosted by the Michigan Boating Industries Association.

Technology is playing a major role in the MRAA’s new look. An all-new website ( is up and running, offering a steadily growing array of resources and information. In addition, new association management software was installed that expands and automates functions, and speeds email creation, distribution and communications to members. And, while not new in concept, this year’s Marine Dealer Conference & Expo is set to offer the most ambitious slate of new keynote and breakout educational sessions in its history. It will be held Nov. 11-14 in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center and Rosen Centre Hotel. Not surprisingly, the dealer conference was voted by MRAA members as the benefit they valued most.

Much of the impetus for the reinvention of the MRAA is being driven by its Young Leadership Advisory Council. The group represents the needs and identifies the thinking of the next generation of marine retailers. According to Gruhn, the council has already provided “incredible insights” to the MRAA board. “Not only does this group bring a new level of energy, but its members add new perspectives and a longer-term approach to our thinking, which helps us better fill the needs of all of our members in addition to attracting and fostering a new generation of leadership within the marine dealer body.”

Partnering with others in the industry is also a new MRAA priority. For example, the MRAA’s partnering with NMMA for the recent America Boating Congress was a success. Looking ahead, Gruhn says, there is a desire to expand dealer participation and add even more dealer-relevant topics at next year’s ABC.

The MRAA is marking its 40th year of being the voice of the industry’s marine retailers. Gruhn has succeeded founding member Phil Keeter who retired after successfully leading the association for the last 23 years. When he took the post, Gruhn said he wanted to build on Keeter’s success. He’s obviously not wasting any time. There are already new insurance and F&I programs, as well a forthcoming resource center that will boast expert materials on sales training, aftermarket sales, dealership management, financing and more.

Bottom line: If you, as a dealer, aren’t a member of MRAA, you should be. Go to, see for yourself all that’s being offered and you’ll know why you belong in this group.


3 comments on “Sweeping changes already in place at the MRAA

  1. John Underwood

    Norm — I’m sure that all of us with a soft spot for MRAA appreciate your kind words. Additionally, those who don’t know about the resources available to beleaguered dealers need the info. MRAA was certainly a strong part in my success as a dealer, and I join you in urging every dealer to take advantage of all the new programs that the “youngsters” are putting forth. Wish I had thought of them.

    John Underwood – Past Chairman

  2. Kyle Kelly

    Very well-written article and I’m glad to see that someone is shedding some light on what has been a very big undertaking by Matt Gruhn. Always been impressed with his work and I wish and hope him the best…

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