From the Captain's Chair: The Show Must Go On
The year started simple enough with Lori Wheeler being named Vice President of the Association in January. At the time, if you had told any of us how 2020 would turn out, we probably would have laughed and suggested you write a science fiction novel. With the presidential election on the horizon, we - like many others - expected the coming 12 months to simply be a flat year or slightly down for the marine industry.
March began with our 43rd Broward County Waterway Cleanup on the first Saturday of the month (the last pre-COVID live event for any of us for a long while). How quickly everything changed.
After the initial panic phase of witnessing how a little-known virus called COVID-19 could wreak such widespread havoc in every area of our lives, we pivoted and created a “new normal” - one that recognized the unique challenges our industry faced. We revised our work habits (remote offices became the norm), and refocused our efforts in areas where we could make the most impact.
We’ve long believed that you can’t ask for help when you need it if you’re not at the table the rest of the year. That’s why we’ve always placed an emphasis on nurturing relationships with elected and appointed officials at all levels of government. As March segued into April, these strong, existing relationships proved invaluable in 2020.
Utilizing relationship capital, MIASF successfully educated and advocated to keep the marine industry as “essential” and keep our businesses open. This provided predictability and income for our businesses. While many industries suffered the negative economic impact from shut-downs, the south Florida marine industry adapted and thrived.
We also turned our attention to other events adversely impacted by the coronavirus’ relentless siege. We quickly realized our annual meeting required a different format. With Reggie Rivers as the host, we enlisted the help of Media Lab to live stream the event, making it one of the first of its kind at the time. We then created a virtual “Battle of the Boats” replacing the annual Plywood Regatta to continue engagement for online students about the marine industry. Another exciting milestone in June was our Salty Jobs video series, produced by Megan Piggott, winning a Telly award!
Summer came and in Orlando we watched as Universal Studios and Disney World reopened safely, seeing 10,000 to 30,000 guests per day while following best practices.
With our most important consumer-facing event of the year slated to occur in the fall of 2020, we turned to Informa’s team of event organizers to ensure FLIBS would remain an in-person event. Utilizing the “All Secure” program, a universal/global set of standards, allowing people to enjoy a live event that - aside from masking and social distancing - harkened back to pre-pandemic experiences.
To be sure, 2020 was a challenging year for all of us. It forced us to adapt, step outside our comfort zone and find solutions to problems we never before imagined. Yet, we rose to the challenge, and the show went on. While nobody knows with certainty what 2021 will bring, MIASF is confident we will embrace - and conquer - any challenges the new year has in store. We’re making decisions, not COVID-19.
CEO/President, Marine Industries Association of South Florida