Behind the Scenes: Phil Purcell is the man at the helm of MIASF

Phil Purcell is the man at the helm

Oct 28, 2021 by Christine Davis

Photo courtesy MIASF

Behind the Scenes: Phil Purcell is the man at the helm of MIASF, the boat show’s owner

The Marine Industries Association of South Florida, owner of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), has hosted the event for 62 years, growing it from 13 exhibitions to the behemoth it is today, known throughout the industry as the “biggest in-water boat show in the world.”

At the helm is the organization’s CEO and president, Phil Purcell.

While he jests that he might have chosen truck driving or log-house building as alternative livelihoods, Purcell’s career in the yachting industry spans more than 30 years, and previously he was a partner of the Westport Shipyard based in Washington state.

He joined MIASF with the commitment to work one year, he said, and that was 14 years ago. Looking back, he said, “It’s kept us all busy at MIASF. We’ve built a really good team, and it’s been a fun group to be around.”

Not that there haven’t been challenges, such as the rebuild and a relaunch just one week after the show was literally blown away by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and, just last year, conducting a safe show during COVID.

“Sometimes we have to remind people of what goes on for MIASF to advocate on behalf of not just the show, but for the community on the other 360 days. If we didn’t do those shows, what would have happened? What about our commitment to the workers, the restaurants and everybody else?”

This year, Purcell points out, environmental issues are front and center, from the MIASF-founded Marine Research Hub of South Florida presentations to an interview with Nicholas Flanders, co-founder and CEO of Twelve.

“Nicholas is working on how to turn carbon emissions back into fuel. For our industry, that’s huge,” Purcell said.

This year, NBC will live-stream “Best of Shows,” and the Friday night Fort Lauderdale Concours atop the Las Olas parking garage will feature fine art, classic cars, house music and not-so-funky collectible tennis shoes, valued at $500,000 and up.

And then there are the wealth of boats, including the debut of Tilman Fertitta’s 252-foot (77m) Feadship, Boardwalk. Ferretti is planning its biggest exhibit ever, and the 30- to 50-meter boats are setting a trend, Purcell said.

“This year, FLIBS will be a phenomenal show. FLIBS is the best B2B/B2C show in the world,” Purcell said. “Without question, there’s nothing else like it.”

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