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Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show attracts business, Americans

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By Dorie Cox and Lucy Chabot Reed

The 57th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show wraps up today, leaving a nice wake. Captains, crew, and exhibitors, attendees and organizers agreed that buyers were here and the future looks bright.

“The show has a good feel, and we’ve seen lots of interest,” said Capt. Andy Sherman of the 117-foot Delta M/Y Grumpy. “The yacht beside us has had three offers.”

Mate Mike Lemay of the 95-foot Johnson M/Y Go said he welcomed his first visitor 5 minutes after the show opened on Thursday.

“He came in charging,” he said, noting this potential buyer knew exactly what he wanted to know about the boat, fired the engines, took decibel readings. He envisioned himself in the boat. He was ready to buy.

One maritime attorney spent much of Thursday in contract negotiations.

“I know deals are brewing,” said Capt. Dale Parker of the 160-foot M/Y Clarity by Bilgin Yachts. “I’ve seen no Eastern bloc or Middle East buyers this year. I’m seeing Americans.”

That appearance of Americans is more than anecdotal.

Brokers and crew welcomed lots of guests onboard around the boat show this week. PHOTO/DORIE COX

Brokers and crew welcomed lots of guests onboard around the boat show this week. PHOTO/DORIE COX

“At this show, as well as Monaco, it became apparent that Americans are the driving economic force for the recreational market right now,” said Scott Stamper, senior vice president of Atlass Insurance Group in Ft. Lauderdale. “All the large yachts being built in Europe are being built by Americans.

“The whole specter of people with money being evil —  that negative connotation with success and the wealth that comes with success — is not in the spotlight anymore,” he said. “Successful businesses employ people.”

Some of those successful businesses exhibited at the show, too.

“This year, come August, the yards filled up and stayed busy,” said Bill Wolf, technical representative with Pettit Paint. “There are good projects ongoing at all the major shipyards. The whole sector is happy and bookings sound like they’re off to a good start for winter.

“Traffic has been a little off, but the quality of the people stopping by our booth was up,” he said, noting that not only repair side people and boaters stopped by, but yacht owners and captains, too.

One retailer reported running out of his giveaway bags a full day and a half earlier than last year, and that business at his store on State Road 84 saw a double-digit increase in business this weekend.

“The exhibitors are having an unbelievable show,” said Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the show. “Even though we have an election going on and we’re under the microscope around the world, we have a certainty that no one else has.”

After greeting business people in the MIASF hospitality lounge, he urged everyone to “go forth and stimulate.”

“Our industry supplies what’s missing in this country and that’s the middle class,” he said. “When you look at a big boat, don’t look at a rich person, look at the jobs and look at it as a career path.”

This boat show brings all that together — the machines, the technology, the talent and the owners who support it all. It is the largest in-water boat show in the world and contributes more than $850 million in economic impact statewide, about $280 million to South Florida alone. More than 100,000 people attend to stoll the six miles of floating docks, and more than 1,000 private planes land at local FBOs.

“Boating is a lifelong joy for those of us who love it and live it,” Stamper said. “All my personal and social networks are centered around the marine industry.

“This is my 30th year at this show. I’m one of those people who loves boat shows. Where else can I get all the people I like and do business with — from all over the world — together in the same place? They’re all here.”

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher and Dorie Cox is editor of Triton Today. Comments are welcome below.

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