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Unprecedented boating summit underway today

It reads like a Who’s Who in boating . . . the list of the more than 150 attendees gathered for the opening of the “Recreational Boating Stakeholders Growth Summit” in Chicago today and tomorrow.

Haven’t heard much about it? That’s not surprising. Perhaps it should have had more advance notice, if for no other reason, because of its truly unprecedented nature. Nevertheless, this initiative is, hopefully, defining and charting a comprehensive strategy that can ensure sustainable growth for boating’s future.

You’ll note this isn’t called an “industry” meeting because it’s clearly not. Correctly, it is dubbed a “summit of stakeholders” because it is the most inclusive gathering of boating interests ever assembled. As a body, the summit participants are from across the U.S. and Canadian boating spectrum. They are leaders from virtually every facet of recreational boating. Here’s a partial participation breakdown: Bankers/insurers (nine); consumer organizations (14); retail dealers (23); distributors (four); marinas/boatyards (11); boat manufacturers (19); engine builders (10); marine trade association execs (17); yacht brokers (four); marine reps (two); big-box retailers (one); government agencies (three); fishing industry (three); boating safety organizations (three); publishers (seven); among others.

The summit is being conducted by an expert facilitation team from the FCRC Consensus Center at Florida State University and the University of Central Florida. The FCRC’s strength is guiding consensus building, and serves an independent public resource facilitating consensus solutions and supporting collaborative action.

The FCRC leaders will be covering a lot of ground in two days. From stimulating an honest exchange of challenges and barriers preventing sustainable boating growth, to exploring actions that can address and overcome the barriers, the facilitating team has its work cut out for it when you consider the size and varied interests of the participants. That said, however, we should expect this summit to be successful. Here are some reasonable expectations:

(1) This summit cannot be expected to miraculously solve all the problems related to boating’s future growth. (2) But it can improve understandings among all the stakeholders. (3) It can generate consensus and commitments to joint actions. (4) It can establish a clear process for initiating a comprehensive strategy for success. (5) It can be the foundation for collaboration across the entire spectrum of boating, something that’s never been forged before.

Why should it all happen?  Truth is, if you study the list of participants and what or who they represent, it seems crystal clear that every one in that Chicago hotel today has an undeniable stake in discovering consensus and collaborative actions that will ensure the growth of participation in boating going forward. I repeat: Every one!

We wish them a hugely successful summit.


4 comments on “Unprecedented boating summit underway today

  1. Douglas Reimel

    Hello Everyone

    Correct, I was not invited to the summit. However, I do have some insight on how to get things moving again. First is retail financing for our customers not my floorplan. Second would be less government regulation. Third would be Factory promotions that are original. Yes there is a host of other items we can talk about. But as you know, we all know what the issues are. So with out giving away everything we know we wil just have to wait. The last time this happened there was the commissioning of a study of the industry problems tha cost 3 million dollars. So in today’s dollars the study will be available in three years at a cost of 30 Million dollars. So were do I send my billable hours to collect my portion of the 30 Million dollar study.

  2. Chris Lyons

    Doug you hit the nail on the head. Yes we have very few sources for retail financing. As I said years ago the boating industry needs to start it’s own credit union. Yes, this will not solve everything but it’s a good direction. In the past two years 80% of my financed deals was financed by credit unions but we still as an industry hope the more major banks come on line andstart lending. Time to stop thinking old school and think with an open mind.

  3. Bill Baker

    What needs to happen is a radical shift in the way we take a product from manufacture to consumer. I have floated this balloon a couple of times and recognize it will be difficult to get started. Some of the infrastructure needs to be removed or modified to reduce the cost to the consumer. Historically there has been a need for all the pieces in between the person using the boat and the company manufacturing the boat (builder, flooring company, warehouse sometimes, dealer, consumer). Today, the manufacturer can more effectively communicate the costs and benefits of their product through the internet. In the case of boats there needs to be a number of places for the consumer to touch and feel the product. Buying over the internet has always been a question of trust. Will I get the product? Will it meet my expectations? Will my warranty issues be taken care of? Once trust is established, it is a very efficient way to deliver products.

    My feeling is that we can remove some of the risk for each party and thereby reduce the end user cost. Whoever retains the risk should also get the most reward. For example, if the manufacturer becomes the flooring company (similar to the automotive industry) they should be expected to have a higher return. The overall cost would be lower because the flooring would be on the cost of manufacture instead of dealer cost. This is only one example of one piece of the puzzle but there are solutions for each issue.

    I hope there are others at the meeting who are thinking outside the nine dots as Doug mentioned. Let’s get back to being creative.

  4. John Donaldson

    Doug should at least get a cut of the 30 mil, but we all will if we set our courses together.
    The government intrusion comes at so many levels that a stakeholder summit could dedicate a whole meeting to that one subject.
    Access to recreational waters is one of my personal challenges. Access issues can be as simple as the closure of an area for fishing or as a long no-wake zone, to the outright banning of access based on hull type or power/non power.
    Then there is access for and challenges to marina siting or launch ramps issues.
    I sometimes think about a summer day in our nation’s capitol, and a non-boating commuter driving home from work along the George Washington Parkway overlooking the Potomac. If he or she sees a few boats with families fishing or enjoying a pontoon boat, or waterskiing, that person may think how relaxing and fun that seems to be. But the access and facilities in our nation’s capitol – and hundreds of other major cities around the country – is so limited that only a privileged few can take to those waters.
    In my opinion improved and wider access is something everyone in the boating industry could agree on and would benefit from.

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