Archive for » May 13th, 2017«

First-time boat buyers missing, even as overall boat sales surge

A rising tide lifts all boats, but some buyers are missing from the recreational marine market even with a surge in overall boat sales.

First-time boat buyers account for a third of all boat sales in the U.S. – but that’s down nearly 20% from 2005, according to a new study from the National Marine Manufacturers Association in Chicago.

“While the recreational boating industry has recovered from the recession, each year we are seeing fewer people enter boating for the first time,” said Carl Blackwell, president of the NMMA’s Grow Boating initiative.

“If we could convince just 2% more of the consumers, who are now dropping out, to purchase their first boat, it would make a significant difference in boat sales,” Blackwell said.

The study, based on 2015 data, profiled six types of first-time boat owners, including their interests and psychographic traits.

One type was called “gear guys.” They’re young men, and some women, motivated by hobbies with specialized equipment.

“The gear guys are intrigued by the tech and the specs. They crave details, so when they’re ready to buy a boat, they want to talk to the experts. For the gear guys, it’s not about being on the water. It’s about the boat,” the study noted. “They’ll drive a hard bargain. This isn’t their first rodeo. … They have experience buying big-ticket leisure items.”

Other types of first-time boat buyers, according to the study, include “water weekenders” who view boating as an event, “seclusion seekers” wanting a boat to explore nature and “luxurious leisurers” desiring a boat for social status.

Regardless of the profile, first-time buyers are getting scarce. That worries John Kukuk, vice chairman of the Wisconsin Marine Association and the owner of Nestegg Marine in Marinette.

“How do we capture the first-time buyer? That’s a tough question we are all trying to figure out,” Kukuk said.

For millennials, student debt is one of the obstacles to boat ownership, as often they’re strapped for cash and can’t afford big-ticket leisure items.

“That is a really tough situation. And we’re not getting enough youth coming up the ranks of boating,” Kukuk said.

There’s so much else, such as camper trailers, other sports, hobbies and vacations competing for discretionary dollars, said Tim Tinus, owner of Tinus Marine in Oconomowoc.

“Probably our biggest challenge is getting new people into boating,” Tinus said.

The marine industry is fighting back by promoting boating as a lifestyle, much like the recreational vehicle industry has done with camper trailers and motorhomes.

“For years, I have been preaching that boating is a tremendous family sport,” Kukuk said.

Getting people into classes would be helpful, but that’s been challenging.

Twenty-six years ago, Kukuk said, he had 55 people in a boating class. Now he’s lucky to get 15, and that’s after 1,200 emails and other efforts to advertise the class.

“It’s been dwindling and dwindling. I don’t understand it,” he said.

For the novice, a lack of personal instruction can ruin their first impression of boating.

“When we get a first-time buyer, we hold their hand until they’re comfortable taking the boat out alone. I take them out a couple of times,” Kukuk said.

Marine engine manufacturers Mercury Marine, in Fond du Lac, and Sturtevant-based Evinrude have introduced technology to make operating a boat easier and more appealing to beginners.

Mercury’s “Joystick Piloting” is like playing a video game, but with a powerful outboard engine.

“Docking a boat isn’t always easy, but with the joystick you can ease your way into a slip,” said Mercury spokesman Lee Gordon.

Mercury’s “Skyhook” is a virtual anchor that, with the push of a button, works with satellite coordinates to anchor a boat in a precise or difficult location.

First impressions of operating a boat matter.

“The best way to attract new boaters is to let them experience boating for themselves,” Gordon said.

Evinrude has a virtual boat dashboard that monitors engine functions from an iPad, and it has push-button automatic winterization for storing an engine during the offseason.

Canada-based BRP Inc. owns Evinrude and the Sea-Doo watercraft brand.

“Technology can help reduce barriers” in boating, said Olivier Pierini, director of global marketing and strategic planning for BRP’s marine propulsion systems.

“Getting people on the water, no matter the boat type, is the single most important thing we can do if we want more people to consider ownership,” Blackwell said. “Once they get on the water, the magic happens.”

The way that people purchase big-ticket items, like a boat, has changed.

Zach Waechter, a boater from Appleton, said he’s never bought a boat from a dealership.

Waechter paid $900 for a used 14-foot boat with a 25-horsepower engine. He spent a few hundred dollars on upgrades and later sold it for $2,000, using that money to buy his next boat.

“A lot of my friends who buy and sell boats never go to a dealership,” Waechter said.

Sixty-six percent of first-time boat buyers would only give dealerships their contact information during the sale, not a minute earlier, according to the study that surveyed 2,000 people.

They didn’t want to be called at home or pursued through email.

Still, 64% of people looking to purchase their first boat said they didn’t know enough about boat ownership to buy one.

Many said they were turned off by “hidden costs” such as docking and storage.

“They often don’t learn about expenses like registration fees and maintenance costs until the last minute. This erodes the trust they have with the dealer, but also makes them question boat ownership altogether,” the study noted.

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Wright steps off gas for sales tax

by Tim Hennagir
ECM Sun Newspapers
The Wright County Board of Commissioners laid over a decision Tuesday morning on a proposed local option sales tax to its June 13 meeting.
On a motion by District 3 Commissioner Mark Daleiden, the board tabled a decision to see what happens with transportation funding at the Legislature, which is scheduled to end its session May 23.
The vote to table was approved 4-1, with District 4 Commissioner Mike Potter voting against it. The meeting agenda for the board’s May 9 meeting included a local option sales tax resolution and presentation by County Coordinator Lee Kelly. A public hearing was held the evening of May 4 regarding the local option sales tax.
No decisions were made after the public hearing, but a draft resolution for the new tax was included for discussion purposes in the County Board’s May 9 meeting packet.
If commissioners decide to implement a local option sales tax, a resolution is required. The half-cent draft resolution included in the meeting packet omitted any tax rate variables and term statement.
The countywide sales tax would be applied to most purchases currently requiring collection of state sales tax. The primary exception would be the purchase of motor vehicles registered for road use, including cars, trucks, motorcycles and trailers where a portion of the state sales tax is already dedicated to transportation.

Mark Daleiden spoke at a county hearing and also came to the Otsego City Council’s May 8 meeting.

Leased and rental vehicles, boats, and all-terrain vehicles would be subject to the local option sales tax proposed by Wright County. Boat trailers would be exempt.
Prior to Tuesday’s board meeting, the May 4 public hearing at the Wright County Government Center opened with each of Wright County’s five commissioners making an opening statement about the proposed sales tax.
County Board Chairman Charlie Borrell, who represents District 5, said he could support passage of a sales tax only if the funds raised were solely dedicated to highways.
“(Wright County Highway Engineer) Virgil Hawkins and his department are very good with their money, but I don’t want to give any county department an extra $6 million,” Borrell said, referring to the proposed sales tax revenue target.
Potter blamed state legislators for failing to fund highway improvements, but mentioned in 2013, lawmakers gave counties the authority to levy wheelage and sales taxes. Currently, 82 out of 87 counties in the state are using that option.
“If anybody has been paying attention to the legislature for more than 5 minutes, the last three years, they haven’t accomplished anything,” Potter said. “It’s a budget year, and they are having a heck of a time right now and will probably have to do a special session for any bonding.”
Potter added he currently serves as the transportation chairman for the Association of Minnesota Counties.
“We can’t wait any longer,” Potter said, referring to the county enacting a local option sales tax or increasing property taxes to pay for a backlog of transportation projects.
“The state has a $12 billion to $18 billion funding shortage, and the federal government hasn’t done anything,” Potter said. “The cost of roads has gone through the roof. We have very few options here. Our road problems aren’t going away. We are going to raise your property tax or we have this option. That’s why are here tonight, to explain this for you.”
District 1 Commissioner Christine Husom said current consideration of some sort of tax increase to fund transportation has come before the Wright County Board three or four times.
“We have 513 miles of county roads we need to maintain,” Husom told the 35 people in attendance at the public hearing. “We are getting behind. We are about $4 million short every year.”
Husom said she didn’t like raising people’s taxes, but needed additional input.
“I don’t think it’s fair property owners are pretty much footing the bill for so many of our projects,” Husom added.
Daleiden offered a business owner’s perspective on the proposed local option sales tax.
“I have the most to lose of anybody up here,” Daleiden said. “I’m a business owner of a self-service, coin-operated car wash, I can’t raise my prices to cover a half-cent sales tax, so it would eat directly into my bottom line. Hopefully, we’ll have some good dialogue tonight.
“I don’t like the idea of going for 15 years and tying the next county board’s hands,” Daleiden said. “But I’ve seen what kicking the can down the road by other boards has done.”
District 2 Commissioner Darek Vetsch said prior to last Thursday’s public hearing, he had spent many hours in meetings exploring the ramifications of the county doing nothing.
“The Wright County Highway Department is already being run lean,” Vetsch said. “How we maintain and build our infrastructure is a quality of life issue. Is the ‘lights on only’ enough? Can we move forward and be progressive? The state used to give the money to do this. Now, they have tossed us a bone (in the form of) a sales tax option.”
Hawkins said lawmakers in 21 states have approved recent gas tax increases to fund transportation.
“Minnesota isn’t one of those states,” Hawkins said, adding that Wright County had two options to close its transportation shortfall.
“One method is property taxes and the other is the local option sales tax,” Hawkins said. “The property tax puts the full burden on property owners, where the sales tax option puts a shared burden on … commuters and residents of Wright County.”
Assistant County Engineer Chad Hausmann provided background about the county’s road system and funding needs during last Thursday’s public hearing and taxing option comparisons.
Food, clothing, vehicles, and agricultural products would be exempt from the local option sales tax if it’s approved by commissioners, Hausmann said.
Hausmann said 406 miles of miles of paved rural and urban highways have construction and maintenance primarily funded by the state’s Highway User Distribution Fund or gas tax.
County road system highways are constructed and maintained with local levy property tax funds.
Wright County currently spends approximately $9.5 million annually on major road improvements such as pavement preservation, reconstruction, safety and bridge projects. There is approximately a $4 million annual gap in county transportation funding, Hausmann said.
Potential options for addressing Wright County’s transportation needs include doing nothing, working with legislators to increase transportation funding, raising the local property tax levy to fund transportation needs, or implementing a local option sales tax, Hausmann said.
If enacted, a half-cent local option sales tax would raise $6 million. The same level of transportation funding could be raised with a 10 percent property tax levy increase for all Wright County property owners.
A half-cent sales tax would cost a household with a median income of $72,000 approximately $48 a year, Hausmann said.
A 10 percent property tax increase for a typical residential property valued at $200,000 would cost $70 a year. The estimated transportation sales tax impact on Wright County businesses would vary and be based on specific taxable purchases made by a business.
Hausmann said 100 percent of the revenue that the county would collect from a local option sales tax would be applied to a short-term, mid-term and long-term list of 18 “candidate projects.”
The majority of the proposed projects are located in the eastern part of Wright County and would serve Monticello, Otsego, St. Michael and Albertville.
The local option sales tax would be removed or no longer collected once projects are finished, Hausmann said.
Sixteen people spoke during the May 4 public hearing.
A tally of those who spoke showed those who opposed the proposed tax slightly outnumbered those who supported it, and several people who commented wanted commissioners to spend more time on the issue before making a decision.
I-94 West Chamber of Commerce President D.J. Hartley was strongly opposed to the proposed sales tax. The I-94 West Chamber of Commerce represents organizations in 10 core communities as well as numerous surrounding cities along I-94 in the northwest Twin Cities.
“I represent businesses in St. Michael, Albertville and Otsego,” Hartley said. “My phone is ringing off the hook. You already have money allotted through your levy (for transportation improvements),” Hartley said. “You have other options. Rogers did a franchise fee. You could take expenses from something else. I agree 100 percent that roads have to be great, but you want to enact this for 15 years. The businesses I represent are not for this,” Hartley added.
Don Schmidt, a Buffalo Township resident, suggested the county board increase property taxes to fund transportation needs.
“Where’s all of the growth coming from?” Schmidt said. “Where’s the money?”
Kevin Kasel, mayor of St. Michael, urged Wright County commissioners to address the transportation needs as soon as possible.
“We are a growing city. You have to fund this,” Kasel said.
“Take the $4 million from parks,” he added. “It’s not as essential as roads. This board is fiscally responsible. This (local option sales tax) looks to be one tool that’s politically palatable. This board needs to do what is necessary to properly fund transportation. You can’t keep pushing it down the road.”
Ray Schmidt, another Buffalo Township resident, then asked: “When is enough enough? Maybe you people should look at yourself. We don’t need anymore taxes. Do you ever look at making a cut? We don’t need a sales tax. The roads are in good shape.”
Chris Klein, a Silver Creek Township Board supervisor, said his full board unanimously agreed to support a half-percent local option sales tax.
During the public hearing, Klein asked for an age check of those in the room.
“People who are age 45 and younger are not here tonight,” Klein said. “They really don’t care. They are willing to pay. If they cared about this, they would be making phone calls, writing letters, sending emails and would be at this meeting. That’s the point I would like to make. The county is going to continue to grow. This is going to help in the long-term.”
Monticello City Council Member Lloyd Hilgart said the Wright County Board hasn’t spent money frivolously.
“You need to catch up on your projects,” Hilgart said. “For most people, the sales tax will be less of a burden than a levy increase. The sales tax will cost me $1,500 in materials for my business. Businesses will pay the lion’s share of it. I’m OK with it. In the end, the majority of constituents will pay less this way. This board has been fiscally responsible.
“At some point, you have to maintain what you have or it will cost you more in the long run,” Hilgart said.
(Editor’s Note: Contributing Writer John Holler provided an update for this story. Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.)


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Southeast US Boat Show opens noon Friday, May 19 | Jacksonville … – Florida Times

Even with its new date and time, the 21st annual Southeast US Boat Show doesn’t seem to have skipped a beat. A small change to the start time on one day is the only discernable difference in this year’s show when compared to previous shows.

The three-day event, originally scheduled for April 21-23, now will be held Friday through Sunday, May 21, at Metropolitan Park and Marina.

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“The only change is that we will open at noon on Friday, May 19, rather than at 10 a.m.,” said show organizer Jimmy Hill, owner of Current Productions. “The only other difference is that we’re expecting an even better turnout this year since the economy has improved so much. The show’s date change hasn’t seemed to affect things at all.”

Hill still expects about 180 vendors this year, about the same as last year’s successful show.

He said there should be approximately 20 boat dealers and manufacturers represented, with inventory in the water and on land.

“The feedback from the vendors in last year’s show was terrific,” he said. “Sales were up in nearly every category, and we expect them to be even better this year. We’ve come through a rough period and people are ready to have fun again, and there’s no better place to do that than on the water in Jacksonville.”

Not only will there be boats and marine-oriented products on display, but there will be demonstrations and seminars for adults and children.

And, on Saturday and Sunday, the popular Oyster Jam returns with a full schedule of entertainment — all day, both days.

The lineup includes an oyster cook-off and a shucking contest, a stand-up paddleboard race, cornhole tournament, bikini contest and more.

There will be live music all day and plenty of food trucks to entertain — and feed — attendees of all ages. Those with more adult tastes in beverages will appreciate the Tiki Bar and Happy Hour specials. Tickets are $12 for adults, and children under 16 are admitted free of charge. Hill said that tickets purchased for the original show dates will be honored and refunds will be given for those who cannot attend the May event.

Hours for the show are noon to 8 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 20; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 21.

For more information, go to and

Barbara Gavan: (904) 359-4536

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