Outgoing NMMA president Thom Dammrich delivers keynote speech at start of 78th Miami International Boat Show

While the marine industry enters its eighth straight year of continuous growth – the longest in its history – that growth is showing signs of slowing, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) president Thom Dammrich told the Innovation Breakfast audience during the 78th annual Miami International Boat Show.

Dammrich said economic studies commissioned by the industry indicate a lower rate of growth through late 2019 of about 3%, emphasizing that the numbers are still in positive territory. That, however, is expected to change going into 2020 with a downturn, as many believe the US market is reaching a saturation point. But Dammrich emphasised that while the industry will turn down, the low point – expected sometime mid-2020 – will be at the same growth level the industry was experiencing in the summer of 2018. He said the US recreational boating economy should begin to turn upward again sometime in 2021.

The same studies show the economic impact of the marine industry US$170.3bn a year, with 35,000 marine businesses employing a half-million workers directly, and responsible for 180,000 indirect jobs. Outdoor recreation represents 2.2% of the US economy – compared to agriculture and mining at just 1% – and that boating and fishing are the largest part of the outdoor economy.

Stating that the marine industry is impacted by government at every level from the White House to local regulators, Dammrich told attendees that the industry has done a remarkable job of joining together to protect one another, citing increases in attendance at legislative advocacy events and the industry’s response to the trade and tariff wars.

The association will adopt a “Protective and proactive policy agenda” for its strategic vision over the next three years with three primary areas of focus, starting with a more aggressive, proactive advocacy agenda. To that end, NMMA has hired to new regional lobbyists to focus on the Great Lakes and South East regions of the US.

A “major offensive” on recruiting and retaining boat owners to the tune of an addition one million dollars for the Discover Boating initiative and US$200,000 for additional consumer research on recruiting and retaining boat owners, and finally, developing strategies and programs to help recruit and retain a “competent workforce.”

Dammrich compared the industry to an ecosystem; “and anything that adversely effects one part of that ecosystem will eventually adversely impact the entire ecosystem, which is why it is so important for us to all work together and speak with a unified voice on any issue.”

Dammrich, who is scheduled to retire at the end of September, said: “This is not my last Miami Boat Show, just the last one I have to worry about,” and was ushered off the stage – clearly moved by emotion – with a standing ovation from the crowd.