From the Captain's Chair: The Economics of the Marine Industry
When anecdotal data fails (which is often), try statistics. In this issue, I’ll lean on hard numbers in making the point that the marine industry needs to hold onto its identity rather than allow ourselves to be swept under “general outdoor recreation” in local and federal government affairs.
First, let’s take politics out of the equation. This is about numbers and the economics in Florida, specifically in the Tri-County area, and more specifically in Broward County. Numbers don’t lie – well, they can if they’re twisted. But real numbers get to the hard facts of a situation like what boating as a whole means to the state overall and to South Florida in particular.
Impact of FLIBS
Let’s start with one aspect - The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which is owned by MIASF. It’s a prime example of the revenue that’s generated by the marine industry for the benefit of the entire region. Last year’s 62nd show offered three million square feet of exhibit space, attracted over 100,000 attendees from 52 countries, and showcased over 1,300 boats and wares from over 1,000 exhibitors. Those are impressive numbers. But the real story is the impact the show had on Florida and on Broward.
An independent economic analysis tells the following story. The world’s largest in-water boat show generated $1.79 billion in economic output throughout the state of Florida and over 10,000 full-time jobs. Of the total sales of $899 million or $173 million per day, Florida companies accounted for $709.7 million and within that, Broward County companies contributed $233.9 million in sales of marine products. The show was also responsible for generating $85.8 million in state and local taxes ($24.5 million in Broward County alone). More importantly, much of this money came from out of the area since 61% of show visitors were from outside the Tri-County region and 49% came from outside of Florida. Think of what this one event in one industry has done for our region and its people.
Impact of the marine industry
If you broaden this view to the estimated economic impact of the entire marine industry in the region, the numbers really make a statement. In FY 2020, direct and indirect marine industry impacts for the state of Florida included $24.6 billion in output and 270,258 jobs. In Broward County alone, marine output was $9.6 billion and 120,688 jobs.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), 100 million Americans go boating every year. In 2021, outdoor recreation accounted for $689 billion in gross economic output or 1.8% of GDP. Within that, boating is the single number one contributor with sales of nearly $31 billion.
Locally, 70% of yachts arriving internationally enter through Port Everglades, making it number one in the nation for attracting yachts, many of which are foreign flagged and bring in significant revenues. Also, Florida tops the country with 1,013,211 registered boats which need maintenance, moorage, fuel and more, so we cannot afford to lose our identity. What other industry has this kind of an impact on South Florida and why wouldn’t we want to single it out rather than bury it as part of a whole?
There has been some discussion to bring boating under the umbrella of general outdoor recreation. MIASF disagrees. Boating, RVs and even housing starts may be closely related but they’re not one and the same. Boating grows organically in the sunshine of Florida. Although COVID can take credit for the recent bump the industry received. Those days are in the rear-view mirror, so we need exposure and support as a unique industry with a substantial influence and worthy contribution. We need to band together and elect individuals to office who understand the benefits we bring and who can get granular with our infrastructure needs.
All this is a fancy way of emphasizing that the marine industry is a major mover and shaker in the region and the state, and it deserves to be recognized and allotted attention and funds as its own entity. Yes, we’re part of outdoor recreation, however our voice needs to ring out loud and clear because we’re the same but different. Our industry is important and relevant, and our message cannot be lost. We must advocate in unison to be heard.