From the Captain's Chair: Moving Towards Normalcy
Three words most of us are ready to hear. After more than a year of uncertainty, there are strong indications that life is slowly, but surely achieving a new equilibrium. Early signs point to a slow yet steady march towards recapturing the essence of those pre-pandemic days.
Pivoting Toward Success
When group gatherings became restricted last year (and remained that way well into 2021), people naturally wondered what would happen to the annual activities and events they looked forward to each year. It was no exception for us at the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.
We were especially motivated to continue our annual sponsored events, because they offered area students the opportunity to engage with and be part of South Florida’s global leading marine industry. But how could MIASF responsibly sponsor events that, in their historic form, violated social distancing and other COVID safety mandates?
Thanks to our creative crew and forward-thinking supporters, we were able to pivot and avoid disappointment. Our team quickly came together and brainstormed ways to keep popular events like the Waterway Cleanup and Plywood Regatta afloat.
We turned to technology to solve the issue of hosting the 44th Annual Waterway Cleanup, which was traditionally a one-day event held in mid-March. This year, with the help of the Clean Swell smartphone app, participants were able to participate on any weekend throughout March and pick the clean-up location of their choice. This helped eliminate crowds at any one place or time, and still met our objective of protecting Broward County’s most important natural resource – our waterways.
When it came to re-inventing the popular Plywood Regatta competition, continuity was especially important. Many past participants have gone on to careers in the marine industry, including competitors who became naval architects, engineers, etc. The annual MIASF scholarships awarded to participants of this event are a valuable way to support students as they move toward marine industry careers. Cancelling the 2020 event was a very difficult decision, and we didn’t want a repeat for 2021. Again, solution!
This year, the regatta concept was modified to become a Cardboard Regatta. The simpler supplies will permit students to build the boat alone or with a partner at home. Besides the boat composition changing, so, too, will the event’s location and competition rules. This year’s regatta takes place in a swimming pool rather than the traditional Dania Beach location. There will also be only one racer per boat, and scheduled race time slots will be assigned. This strategy helps maintain social distancing while still providing the excitement of live competition in a safe and fun environment.
Waterway Cleanup and Cardboard Regatta are just two ways MIASF has pivoted to move steadily along a path toward normalcy.
Elected Officials Lead the Way
Of course, none of these creative solutions would be possible without the support of our local, elected officials.
Whether they are participating as judges in the annual Marine Industry Elevator Pitch Competition; providing funding for sustainability initiatives like Marine Research Hub of South Florida; or working together to support the continuity of live events like our area’s annual boat shows or advocating for necessary infrastructure, the assistance and support of local elected leaders is integral to the marine industry’s continued success.
A welcoming business climate, facilitated by the forward-thinking approach of our community leaders, is also why more than $1 billion in marine industry company acquisitions occurred in the past 12 months. Despite the gloomy economic outlook overall, investors demonstrated their confidence in the Florida marine industry throughout the year.
Acquisitions involving big names including Roscioli, Rybovich, Neptune Boat Lifts, Boat Owners Warehouse, and Maverick Boat Group, prove that investors understand the marine industry is a class A investment, capable of delivering solid returns even in uncertain economic times. The welcoming business climate of Broward County plays a key role in creating and sustaining this optimism.
As we continue to move towards normalcy, buoyed by rapid distribution of COVID vaccinations, there will be challenges still to come. Yet, the marine industry has proven we are more than capable of not only evolving but thriving no matter the obstacles we face. The future looks bright, and we’re excited to lead the way.
CEO/President, Marine Industries Association of South Florida