Waterfront Times: Event to impart marine industry knowledge June 2, 2015


We South Florida residents are surrounded by water. Aside from the ocean, our backyards include canals, lakes and the scenic Intracoastal.

Even so, the average local probably doesn’t give much thought to the expansiveness of our marine industry and its substantial economic impact to the tune of $11.5 billion annually.

Raising awareness and generating excitement are the reasons behind the second annual Marine Industry Day taking place from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 20 in Esplanade Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The free, family-oriented event will feature reggae band Curbstone, classic rock cover band Brass Evolution, and headliner Amber Leigh of Delray Beach, a rising country singer.

About 30 vendors will be at the event, according to Sharon Abramson, public relations and marketing director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF). Most will provide interactive games and educational activities to engage visitors, including “Science Eye,” a fishing and casting game. Riverwalk is sponsoring a paddleboard demonstration. Water taxi tours will also be available.

“The main concept behind the day is to celebrate and raise awareness of the industry,” Abramson says, adding that job seekers can leave resumes with some vendors.

“People don’t realize how many people are involved in the marine industry. It’s not just boatyards and marinas. There are painters, welders, interior designers, engine repairmen, yacht brokers, mechanics, retail stores, captains, cooks and crews.”

Last year 2,000 people were drawn to the agency’s first event, with at least that number expected this year. Melissa Dorce, director of academic support at the College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography at Nova Southeastern, is excited to be involved again.

“It was great last year,” she says. “We had a lot of children and adults visit and look at a live lionfish in a tank. Again, we will provide marine science educational outreach with various fish.

“We’ll have games, word searches, and coloring projects. Four-year-olds can pet our starfish and see corals and sponges. If we can impart a little bit of knowledge and science, I’m happy.”

Phil Purcell, executive director of the MIASF, came up with the idea to hold a marine-oriented educational event. “We are a resource that needs to be understood and protected,” says Colleen Deverteuil, a board member and volunteer. “We contribute $8.8 billion to Broward County and provide 110,000 jobs.

“People think the marine industry is just a guy on a big white boat. But it trickles down.”

For emphasis, she cites examples such as Publix on 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale, which she says is a flagship store because it’s the largest supplier of yacht provisioning. And when the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show comes to town in November, at least 60,000 rooms will be booked in local hotels.

“In a nice way, we want the city to know how important the industry is. We’re pillars of the community involved in a lot of philanthropy,” Deverteuil said.

In agreement is Cyril “Sid” Spiro, CEO of Regent Bank in Fort Lauderdale, a returning vendor. “I’m not sure that the public realizes the economic impact of the marine industry in our area,” he says. “It is a chance to raise the profile of the marine industry. The only other time of year that happens is during the boat show. I plan to go to Marine Industry Day and bring my family.”

Jimmie Harrison is the owner of Frank & Jimmie’s, a boat propeller shop in Fort Lauderdale since 1947. “Design, Build and Raise Your Propeller” is the name of the activity his business will present at the event.

He explains that every participant is given a small square copper sheet on which to draw, along with shears, shippers and pliers to create propellers. They are then put on identical small boats and raced for prizes on 40-foot tracks on the New River.

“We have everyone from little kids working with their parents to naval architects,” says Harrison, adding that some people complete their propellers in 10 minutes while others take an hour.

“It’s surprising which ones work. I think it’s a really fun activity incorporating math, science, physics and hands-on skills. It gets you thinking about how boats are made.”

Harrison believes that Marine Industry Day “is a solid step forward to bringing the industry into the light. We have not beat our own drum loudly enough.”

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Marine Industries Association of South Florida. 221 SW 3rd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312. Phone: 954.524.2733