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President's Report
2020, Q-3

It’s now been six months since Governor Inslee’s original Stay Home Stay Healthy order. It’s been the most challenging six months of my 21 years at NMTA but also the most rewarding. We’ve been driving the boat while building it, and there are no charts for where we’re going. I’m extremely proud of the NMTA team, how they’ve adapted to the new and everchanging conditions we’re all working under in the office and at home, and all we have done for members.

We have much to be proud of, so here’s a look at what we have accomplished.

  • In late March, we launched our COVID-19 updates — regular emails consolidating, vetting and simplifying the overwhelming amount of COVID-19 information our member businesses were receiving. We’ve since published 20, and these emails have some of the highest open rates we’ve seen for NMTA member communications, telling us that members have found these communications extremely useful.
  • In early May, the Governor’s office released its Safe Start Washington plan for reopening businesses and restarting activities. Dealers and broker members were included in Phase 1 with auto dealers, and not required to wait until Phase 2, which for King County did not start until June 19.

    It was no accident that the state deemed marinas and boatyard workers essential or that boat dealers and brokers were part of the Phase 1 reopening. I can confidently report that it was thanks to NMTA’s strong relations in Olympia. NMTA’s VP and Director of Government Affairs Peter Schrappen was in constant communication with the Governor’s office, the Department of Commerce and many others. Peter also worked closely with City of Seattle to eventually get boat launch ramps reopened.

    Our COVID-19 era boating advocacy efforts were recognized nationally and were the subject of a feature story in Soundings Trade Only, which you can read

  • Also in May, as part of a Grow Boating initiative and thanks to NMTA’s Director of Communications Karsten McIntosh’s hard work, we launched Open for Boating. From the initial idea to launch was less than 45 days. The purpose of the site was to help boaters better understand where they could go boating and how they could do it safely, while also providing an opportunity for new boaters to educate themselves on getting into boating. It was promoted via a month-long digital advertising campaign that created 3.5 million positive boating impressions, 8,500 clicks, and over 12,000 site visits from nearly 10,000 unique boaters. We also received a significant amount of television, radio, and print media coverage about it. You can read a complete recap of the promotion here.
  • At the same time, we launched “Seattle Boat Show Live,” a weekly live webinar series, co-hosted with the team from the Waggoner Cruising Guide and with guest appearances from local experts. In the beginning topics focused on where you could go boating and how to do it safely during COVID-19. Most recently the topics have been more like Seattle Boat Show seminars on cruising, anchoring, weather, tides, fishing, Be Whale Wise guidelines and more. We’ve had great engagement from the boating community and have had almost three thousand households attend these webinars. You can watch all previous episodes and register for our upcoming episodes at openforboating.com/sbslive
  • We moved the Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show online – but not just online, it was live and interactive – something that had not been done before by any boat show or trade associations, and we did it in less than 30 days. For this bold experiment, we enlisted the expertise of IPG Tech, the event technology firm hired by the Gates Foundation for their marquee events. We received recognition and kudos from our peers in the industry, and Trade Only Today said NMTA “raised the bar for the boating industry to a new level.” You can read more about the Anacortes show here.
Looking ahead…
Northwest Marina and Boatyard Conference
We’ve moved the Northwest Marina & Boatyard Conference online. Presented by Marine Floats and sponsored by Fisheries Supply, it takes place Thursday, October 8 and Friday, October 9.
Traditionally, it's designed for our marina and boatyard operators. That's true again this year, but all marine professionals will appreciate the agenda and opportunity to learn more about our industry with the seminars and networking.
This year's virtual setting allows us to break-up speakers and rooms, cut the registration fee by over $120 from previous years and draw on speakers from around the United States and world. You can view the agenda and register here.
Seattle Boat Show 2021
To have an in-person show or not is the proverbial 64,000-dollar question. Staff, Board, Boat Show Committee and a special Boat Show Contingency Plan Task Force have spent hundreds of hours discussing the issue and researching our options.
Currently we are full steam ahead on planning an in-person show at the CenturyLink Field Event Center and have met with First and Goal, Inc. regularly, other local consumer shows (RV, Home and Auto) and boat show producers all across the country to talk about the feasibility of in-person shows. The stadium has spent nearly all of their 2020 capital budget on COVID-19 improvements— from air filtration and making the stadium entirely touchless for ticketing, food and beverage service, and more. I think it is arguably one of the best venues anywhere to operate an event in our current situation. That said, there is much that still needs to happen that is out of our control – such as King County moving to Phase 4 and the Governor giving the go ahead for in-person shows to take place. Also unknown at this point is what restrictions would be placed on the show layout and if there would be a cap on attendees.

Consequently, we are hard at work in parallel on a digital contingency plan, taking the learnings from the Anacortes show and layering it with some exciting new features we’ve been researching.  We plan to announce the details of the digital contingency plan no later than October 15 to give members a chance to get familiar with the concept and options if we go that route. A go/no go decision for the in-person show will be made in early November.
And in other news…

Boat sales data
In my April President’s Report, I talked about my optimism about the future of recreational boating and fishing. That optimism has been borne out by impressive boat sales and increased boating participation which have been the big and unexpected story this summer. Washington state new boat sales are up in units by 44%, 48% and 21% in June, July and August respectively. Year to date sales are up 7.8% for 2020. For a more detailed breakdown about new, brokerage and private boat sales, read the story here
Office move and staffing
Like every business NMTA is taking a hard look at its expenses and making what I think are some smart choices. At the beginning of September, we downsized and moved into a smaller, less expensive office – one door down from our old location. The new space reduces our rent expense by 70%. Staff will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future, but we’re all taking turns staffing the office every day from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. Feel free to stop by to check out the new digs and give us a (socially distanced) hello.
And some gratitude…
Despite these challenging times we have much to be grateful for. I’m grateful for the hard work of our dedicated Board and the member volunteers on all our committees. They have pulled extra duty these past few months despite increased workloads and challenges at their own businesses. 
I’m grateful that boating and fishing has provided stress-relief, togetherness, and outdoor fun for Washingtonians as an antidote to COVID, and at the same time has buoyed many of our member businesses. 
And last but not least, all of us at NMTA appreciate the trust you put in us every day to make decisions, big and small, on your behalf. Thank you for your membership and continued support. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us during these turbulent times if there’s anything we can do for you. Or if you just feel like a chat.
George Harris
NMTA President/CEO

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