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The U.S. election took place the day after the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show this year. On the way to the show, people on Southeast 17th Street passed a “Trump Pence: Make America Great Again!” sign. Not a small yard sign, but a 16-by-6 foot semi-permanent one in front of a property owned by Resolve Marine near Port Everglades.
Company President and CEO Joe Farrell Jr. erected that sign, and said he believes a Trump administration will help the marine industry when it begins to cut personal and business taxes.
“Tax cuts loosen up money so yacht builders, marinas and marine businesses will pile that money back into expansion,” said Farrell, whose Ft. Lauderdale-based company does salvage, towing, underwater surveys and has a maritime academy with fire training for crew. “If there’s more money in circulation, there’s money for more boats and more recreation. Everything changes.”
President-elect Trump’s ideas are reminiscent of the leader who ran the country from 1981-1989, said Rob Parmentier, Marquis Larson Group’s president and CEO.
“When you go back in time to the last administration where we saw that, it was Ronald Reagan,” he said. “We see that put money back into the economy and that stimulates business and job growth. We had a prosperous eight years with less regulation, less taxes and unwanted bureaucracy.
“Myself and my company don’t necessarily agree with everything Trump is, but we believe this is sincerely good for the boat business,” Parmentier said. “He will cut taxes in all brackets and for businesses. Trump is pro-business and wants to help everyone.”
Parmentier felt like business was up as he talked to customers before the election. Turns out he was right as the company sold more than $11.5 million worth of boats at this year’s show.
“I’ve been in this for 34 years and that was strong, as strong as I’ve seen,” Parmentier said of the five-day Ft. Lauderdale show. “There was some euphoria, the anticipation of better things to come.”
Not everyone credits the election results for that feeling. Mark Elliott, a yacht sales and charter consultant with IYC, agreed that buyers at the show were active this year but he said they likely would have been buying no matter who won the election.
“Typically during an election, people are hesitant on large purchases,” Elliott said. “In this case, I think people knew where they would put their money. People already had their plan with either party that won.”
IYC has had a positive response from the boat show, he said. More offers have been made in the weeks after the show than during the last few shows combined. And Elliott believes things will get even better.
“I think big U.S. business will flourish, and big business stimulates the yacht industry,” Elliott said.
People were making offers and boats were selling at the show, said Cromwell Littlejohn, a sales broker with Northrop & Johnson. But it wasn’t clear to him how much Trump had to do with it.
“I don’t know if the election played a big part in their decision to buy a boat,” Littlejohn said. “I attribute the atmosphere to everybody simply ready to get on with their lives, just time to get a boat.”
With decades of working through trends in yachting, he said he was prepared for anything at the show.
“Every boat show, owners and buyers have all the reasons they need not to buy,” Littlejohn said. “We were prepared to hear that, right and left. If in any election cycle we thought we would hear it, it was this one.”
Few clients were thrilled with either candidate, he said. Still, his team never heard, “My decision to purchase is based on who wins.”
“It didn’t seem they bought because they believed the economy would get stronger, or that it would be so much worse that they should delay,” he said. “It was just time.”
During FLIBS, Littlejohn said sellers were positive and prepared to negotiate deals at fair market value, and buyers were offering close to fair market value.
“And it’s looking as though a lot will find their way to the closing table,” he said. “People just seem ready to move on with their lives.
“If my crystal ball was clear we’d be talking about what I would do with my big boat, however, all we can do is react to what the marketplace is doing,” Littlejohn said.
By the first few months of 2017, the transactions that started at the show will have played themselves out, he said.
“Or the yachts will remain on market and we’ll see them in Miami,” he said.
With the boat show and election-day uncertainty behind, that large Trump Pence sign remains standing on 17th Street. From his office beside it, Resolve Marine’s Farrell continues to hear cars honk in support. People even stop to take photos in front of it.
“Seems now more than ever,” he said.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.