18 May RIMTA Delegation Attends American Boating Congress


ABC_logo4C_(2)The American Boating Congress (ABC)—organized by NMMA in Washington, D.C. from May 9-11—is based on a simple principle: the people who work in our industry are our most effective advocates. NMMA puts a supreme level of organization into this event, compiling information on key issues and facilitating meetings so industry members can travel to Capitol Hill and educate legislators on the issues that impact the marine trades.

As NMMA President Thom Dammrich said in his welcoming remarks, this event is an “important and valuable tool to educate Congress and influence policy and activate change that is good for our industry,” as reported in Boating Industry.

A Rhode Island delegation attended the Congress, including RIMTA CEO Wendy Mackie and RIMTA Legislative Committee members Andy Tyska, owner of Bristol Marine, and Pirate Cove Marina Owner Brandon Kidd. This trio went to Capitol Hill with a strategy: to educate legislators on a key set of issues and how they impact our industry in the Ocean State, to leave behind background information legislators can use to advocate for the marine trades, and to absorb as much information as possible to help move the R.I. marine trades forward.

The Rhode Island delegation met with staffers in the offices of Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, both of whom stopped into the meetings, as well as staffers with Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin. The key issues the delegation focused on were:

Ethanol: to discuss the threat that E15 places on the recreational boating industry and stress the importance of keeping fuels such as E10 available to boaters. According to information provided by the NMMA, the EPA prohibits E15 for marine engines but has taken no steps toward educating consumers about the prohibition and dangers of using E15, nor has it required that safe fuels (such as E10 or E0) remain readily available.

Workforce Development: to advocate for expanding Pell eligibility to short-term, post-secondary certificates and non-credit programs, which could help more individuals train in Rhode Island for marine and composites careers.

The R.I. delegation also stressed to legislators the importance of on-the-job training—both for companies that want employees to learn their own and/or proprietary methods that would not be included in a formalized training program, and to maximize the use an apprenticeship model to pass on knowledge that is now possessed by workers soon facing retirement.

Many businesses in the U.S. invest in work-based learning to help entry-level employees advance, but the Work Opportunity Tax Credit does not reward these employer investments after making a hire, so there is a need to shift those dollars to reward employers who make upskilling a priority.

Recreational Fishing: to inform legislators that over 50 percent of all recreational boating outings involve fishing, and to urge Congress to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act—which since its passing in 1976 has made progress in ending overfishing, rebuilding depleted fish stocks, and protecting essential fish habitat. According to Mackie the R.I. delegation’s message was simple: Whatever we can do to keep fishing fun and sustainable supports the health of the recreational boating industry in Rhode Island.

Water Resources Reform: to stress the importance of the Water Resources Development Act, which supports the ports, channels, dams, flood-management practices and other infrastructure of the maritime transportation system.

Marine trades associations also had an opportunity to share information on a wide range of issues that are common concerns, such as member engagement, boat show management and other topics. Mackie gave a presentation on what Rhode Island is doing to train its workforce, which was met with much interest as other states look to Rhode Island as a training model.

“I learned a great deal at ABC,” says Mackie, “and I came away with a good feeling—that RIMTA and our industry in Rhode Island are so on top of the process of working with our legislators…The fact that we are a concentrated industry in a small state, and one with no sales tax on boats, are factors. But our association and our Legislative Committee are strong and are definitely ahead of the curve.”

Government relations is a critical component of what RIMTA does for its members. Learn more about how to take action here. To complement the activities of RIMTA’s Legislative Committee, RIMTA also has its own PAC (Political Action Committee). Like all PACs, the RIMTA PAC can only be supported by contributions from individuals; learn more about how you can support their efforts.