City Proclaims June 11 Marine Industry Day June 19, 2014
Recognizing the significant contribution to the local, regional and statewide economy and resulting jobs generation, several of the marine industry’s leading proponents came together to provide an upbeat reading and enthusiastic outlook for Fort Lauderdale and the South Florida region based on rebounding activity in the boating and yachting sectors. Recovery of the overall U.S. and global economies, increased spending on boats, equipment, supplies and services in Florida and growing demand for workers in the marine sector are signs that the industry is in a growth mode.
Appearing at the Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center were Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, Executive Director of Marine Industries of South Florida Association Philip Purcell, Chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media (AIM) Skip Zimbalist, and Owner of National Marine Suppliers Dean du Toit. Dozens of industry stakeholders also turned out at the event to witness the proclamation of June 11 “Marine Industry Day” in Fort Lauderdale – a first for the city.
Mayor Seiler has often cited the city’s key industries as tourism, real estate development and the marine industry, each dependent on the other for growth and success. He was quoted in an article in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel saying, “This community is built around the marine industry, but it’s not just about the yachts, the super yachts and mega yachts. It’s top to bottom the most successful industry we’ve ever had, and this trickles down.” The added stimulus of having the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show gives special recognition to and promotes the region to the global yachting market which in turn feeds spending and jobs. The Super Bowl may travel to different cities, but Fort Lauderdale has its equivalent every year. Studies estimate 1,500 large yachts visit the region annually with each spending on average $169,000 while they’re in port. Seiler pledged to continue keeping the city and its government focused on the needs of the industry and to help with projects to insure its growth.
Purcell underscored the Mayor’s comments noting, “Keep in mind these are family, middle-class jobs. You can buy a house, you can buy a car, you can do all of those things.” He pointed to the marine industries 107,000 jobs and 5,500 businesses and generation of nearly $9 billion in revenue in the Tri-County area. He noted that this data was collected in 2010 and gains following the great recession that have accelerated in the past 18-months may not be fully illustrated. As a result, the MIASF has launched a repeat of the study to bring it up to date. Purcell also reported a recent poll of his member firms identified 264 job openings, many of which represent salaries at the $50,000 and above level which should attract new workers and their families to the region.
AIM, which owns Show Management and produces the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, reported the 2013 event staged last October was the biggest in its 54-year history. Record revenues were boosted by healthy exhibitor turnout and more product on display. Eleven percent of visitors to the show are international guests, Zimbalist noted, and many return to use the docks and hire local talent to maintain their yachts – and to consider bringing their operations to south Florida. For the industry and boat show to keep growing, Zimbalist explained, local waterways and marinas must be able to accommodate the bigger yachts being built today. “We’re turning business away because we don’t have space for them,” he said. “We need dredging which is happening soon and we need more places to dock these boats. We are the yacht capital of the world and we can’t sit on our laurels … we have to get better every year.”
National Marine Suppliers Dean du Toit offered a view of his operation which illustrates the broad jobs impact of servicing the yachting sector. The firm has worked with owners, captains, crew, and management companies for over 20 years. Du Toit suggests one of his goals is to bring more boats to South Florida and increasing the number of boats arriving in Fort Lauderdale. He also cautioned about the dredging taking so long. “It needs attention and some people to kick it in. Dredge it and they will come. What a 200- or 300-foot vessel brings to the community is amazing. At 200-feet plus, we are limited to five berths in Broward and Miami has three berths. We’re playing catch-up to places like the Mediterranean and we are the so-called yachting leaders.”
Summarizing the comments, Purcell said, “I think everyone agrees we have to collaborate. We have a bright future; we are the hub of the industry. Working with the City, the USAA, FYBA and the Young Professionals Assn., we are going to do this. We need to work with the County to get slips at the Convention Center which could accommodate vessels that not only bring an economic benefit, but bring the best and the brightest entrepreneurs of the world – the Paul Allens, the Steven Spielbergs. And at the Las Olas Marina, let’s get a public private partnership going there so we can see this project underway. It’s up to us to steward this and help it thrive.”