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President's Report
May 2019

I love this time of year! The long days of summer in front of us and there’s so much to look forward to on the water. As I write, hundreds of boats are preparing for Opening Day festivities, anglers are gearing up for shrimp, halibut, lingcod and salmon fishing, 2,000 paddlers will make their way to Lake Sammamish State Park May 10-11th for the Northwest Paddling Festival, and 6,000 boat buyers will set course May 16-19th to Cap Sante Marina for the second annual Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show to do business with 118 different members and browse over 300 new and brokerage boats on display. There’s so much to look forward to.
In other important news, electronic ballots to elect three new members to the Board of Trustees were sent recently to all voting NMTA members. Last year we moved our Board Election process completely on-line, and, as expected, we saw a nice uptick in member participation. Please set aside a few minutes before June 7 to read the candidate biographies and vote for three members you think are best suited to help guide NMTA for the next three years. You can read the candidate biographies on pages 16-17.
Our 13-member Board of Trustees has a fiduciary responsibility for the association. In other words – guide the association strategically, set policy, approve the annual budget, act in the best interest of our members and make really tough decisions like the number of show days and show hours for the Seattle Boat Show. This is no small task because NMTA is unique with the largest most diverse membership of a regional marine trade association in the U.S.
It’s interesting to look at the pie-chart of our 725 member businesses. They include manufacturers (22%), service providers (13%), marinas (11%), retailers (10%), dealers (9%), brokers (7%), publications (7%), distributors (5%), boatyards (5%), manufacturer reps (4%), and finance and insurance providers (3%). I imagine a propeller with ten or more blades that needs to be balanced just right so that each propeller blade can work as efficiently as possible for the benefit of all businesses. In other words – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I imagine our Board as the propeller shop whose job is to maintain the propeller and make sure each blade (member group) is cared for and given the attention it needs for maximum performance. The NMTA Board, member committees and staff do this “propeller maintenance” for our members with our boat shows, events, lobbying, educational and informational programs, Grow Boating programs, and Health Trust.
When it comes to member benefits, our most popular one is the Seattle Boat Show. This past year 390 of our 725 members participated directly in the Show. For comparison the NMTA Health Trust is used by 126 members to provide quality health insurance to nearly 5,000 employees and family members, the Northwest Marina & Boatyard Conference attracts over 100 member businesses annually, and we have 118 members exhibiting at the upcoming Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show. I believe all 725 members benefit from our advocacy in Olympia and Washington, D.C. for critical issues that impact marine businesses, boating access and recreational fishing opportunity.
In my 20-years of work at NMTA, there is one consistent and challenging issue every year – choosing the right combination of trade-offs so the Seattle Boat Show delivers the maximum value and return on investment for every exhibitor and attendee. With nearly 400 businesses exhibiting, 3,000 employees staffing the show, and 50,000 attendees, we hear a lot of suggestions on how to improve the show. I think we are very close to the “right combination of trade-offs” and this is evident in our attendance relative to other regional and national shows, the quality, quantity, and diversity of exhibitors and boats, and the number of attendees that come from all over the United States and Canada each year.
I’ve written before that the most sensitive subject for some of our exhibitors is the number of show days and the daily show hours. Regarding show dates and the question about whether the Seattle Boat Show should be a one weekend or two weekend show – presently this decision has been made for us because CenturyLink Field & Event Center is the only indoor venue in Washington large enough for the Seattle Boat Show. CenturyLink Field and the adjoining Event Center is booked all year long with the Seahawks regular season, NFL playoffs, Sounders regular season, MLS playoffs and other large events like the Auto, Home, and RV shows. Sharing a venue and dates with successful NFL and MLS teams is challenging for the Auto, Home and RV shows. Our Seattle Boat Show dates, just before the Super Bowl, have emerged, in my opinion, as the best consumer show dates because they allow for the most date certainty and maximum time for move-in and move-out.
Speaking of dates, the NMTA Board recently approved 2020 Seattle Boat Show dates: Friday, January 24 to Saturday, February 1, 2020.  To show how our dates are constrained by other events and how a two-weekend show is our only viable option at the moment we’ve made an info-graphic of the January 2020 calendar that’s available at www.nmta.net/boatshowdates. For several compelling reasons, a two-weekend show is the best option for Seattle. The most recent RV Show, which is immediately after the Seattle Boat Show, is a one-weekend 4-day show and it was devastated with heavy snow this year during its move-in and show days. Boat shows in Toronto, Detroit, Boston and Houston are examples of very successful two-weekend shows. Toronto, Detroit and Boston continue as two-weekend shows partly because of weather. Houston continues as a two weekend show partly because like Seattle, they share a venue with an NFL team and the uncertainty that brings. Here in Seattle, it’s important to keep in mind the weather and the NFL schedule.
Show hours on the other hand are completely at the discretion of NMTA’s volunteer leadership and for 2020 I expect the show hours to be like 2019. When the staff, Boat Show Committee and ultimately the NMTA Board approve Seattle Boat Show hours, I return to my propeller analogy and all the trade-offs that need to be considered. I know that some exhibitors strongly disagree with the current show hours. That said, I hope exhibitors that would like to see fewer show hours can appreciate the sincere and thoughtful work done by staff, the Boat Show Committee, and the NMTA Board to make the show valuable to the most members as possible. Some members pose the question – NMTA is a member organization so why not have a vote of the membership or exhibitors to choose the show hours? I know this sounds like a reasonable request, however that’s why I started this report with an update on Board elections. The NMTA members elect Board Members, to as I’ve written make the “tough decisions” and be good “fiduciary stewards” for the members based on information that requires study, focus and a balancing of business aspects.  This requires time and objectivity exceeding what the typical member can devote to the NMTA and the Boat Show. In other words, NMTA is a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy. Members have a powerful voice to vote and/or run for a Board of Trustees position and are encouraged to be involved and informed as possible.
Speaking of volunteer leadership, in July the NMTA Board of Trustees will appoint three new Seattle Boat Show Committee members to serve 3-year terms. The Boat Show Committees for Seattle and Anacortes are the only appointed NMTA committees and this is something I support to maintain continuity from month to month and year to year. If you, or someone you know would like to serve on a Boat Show Committee please contact me directly at george@nmta.net or our Board Chair, Craig Perry at craig@leschiandlakewood.com .
NMTA has been a leader and innovator in creating promotions and attractions for boat shows – online ticketing, parking promotions, Uncorked wine tasting, Sails & Ales craft-beer tasting, unrivaled boating education with 247 free boating and fishing seminars in 2019, and advanced education with Boat Show University. For 2020, NMTA is committed to finding the next “big idea” to improve our week night attendance.
For those of you that are still reading I have more breaking news - NMTA plans to operate onlyone location in 2020 – CenturyLink Field & Event Center, and to continue the joint marketing and ticketing agreement with the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association for one final year with a South Lake Union location.
In 2021, the NMTA intends to produce the Seattle Boat Show in two locations – CenturyLink Field & Event Center and Bell Harbor Marina. These will be the only Seattle Boat Show locations. As I have written previously in this column, NMTA is very excited about the future possibilities available at the Port of Seattle’s Bell Harbor Marina & Conference Center and across the street at Bell Street Parking Garage. I’m a believer that the Seattle waterfront will be transformed into one of the most beautiful destination waterfronts in the world. I think our members have much to look forward to as our city and our Seattle Boat Show grows and changes. Just like we have much to look forward to as we head into another great season of Northwest boating.
See you on the water!


George Harris


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