Jeff Napier, the first president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) in the US, has passed away after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Napier was a key figure in the boating industry of the 1980s, credited with uniting a fragmented industry and transforming it into a cohesive manufacturing sector. After the National Association of Engine and Boat Builders merged with the Boating Industry Association to become the NMMA, Napier became its first president.
When the association started, the NMMA had 450 members, two offices, a US$3m budget and produced four boat shows. When Napier departed in 1997, the organisation had about 1,800 members, a budget of more than US$30m, an office in Washington, DC, and more than 20 boat shows.
Napier also helped grow new-boat sales to levels that the industry had never seen before. He understood the opportunities of creating an affordable boating lifestyle through financing. He encouraged the idea of educating new lenders entering the marine finance world to be fair competitors and helped the manufacturing and dealer base understand the value of financing. The NMMA president was an early proponent of the idea that “boats run on financing as well as fuel.”
Having been a part-owner of a small farming community bank, Napier knew that financing “niche” collateral would solidify marine lending its early growth years. Napier, along with NMMA-sponsored institutions like the National Marine Bankers Association (NMBA), made reliable industry data available to credit-market investors considering starting boat loans. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and new capital became available for marine lenders. During Napier’s time at NMMA, marine loan portfolios swelled from US$1bn to US$7bn.
"IBI became a member of the NMMA during Jeff’s tenure as president and I valued his kind council, advice and friendship," said IBI publisher Nick Hopkinson. "Throughout the nineteen eighties and nineties Jeff played a central role in the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) as its President and as a committee member and was always fully engaged in the promotion of international business, the need for open markets and the harmonisation of boat building standards in as many countries as possible. Our thoughts are with his wife Liliana and his family."
Napier is also credited with growing NMMA’s boat shows and forming the original boating industry political action committee (PAC) in the 1970s. He also created the International Marine Certification Institute (IMCI) to pre-certify US-built boats exported to the EU. Napier was also behind the original Uniting the Industry for Growth campaign, which eventually became the Grow Boating movement.
After Napier departed from NMMA, he moved to Arizona where he pursued a career in real-estate development. He and his wife, Liliana, also owned a family farm in Italy, tending vineyards and olive groves, and enjoying boating along the Ligurian coast.
Napier was inducted into the NMMA Hall of Fame in 2003.