Boating industry leaders gathered for the third and final day of the American Boating Congress (ABC) 2019 yesterday. The morning kicked off with the marquee session of ABC 2019, where members of Congress, top administration officials, and leading media and political figures spoke to a packed house of stakeholders.
During the session, Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle discussed their recent efforts to support the recreational boating industry through conservation, infrastructure, and business-friendly policies. Representative Brian Mast (R-FL-18) spoke about conservation efforts in Florida and the need to keep our waterways beautiful for years to come; Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01) talked about her work in Congress to protect our oceans and coastal communities; and Representative Brendan Boyle (D-PA-02) shared the importance of investing in blue-green infrastructure projects throughout the country.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross also joined to highlight the 2.2 percent contribution to U.S. GDP that the outdoor recreation industry generates and how it boosts the broader economy. Secretary Ross also discussed how the administration supports the industry through business-friendly policies and public access to America's federal waters. Additionally, Captain Scott L. Johnson, Chief of the Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety, discussed the boating industry's commitment to safety and how it has made the water a safer place for everyone.
The session continued with an esteemed panel discussion featuring Bret Baier, FOX News chief political anchor and host of the Special Report with Bret Baier, and preeminent political strategists Adrienne Elrod and Kevin Madden, who discussed issues facing the boating industry in the present, such as the ongoing trade war, and considerations for the future, including the shifting political landscape approaching 2020.
Elrod provided insights into the Democratic strategy leading up to the presidential election and the importance of winning over middle class and suburban voters, while Baier and Madden highlighted how one tweet can change the news cycle and how anxiety about the state of the economy will be a critical factor leading up to 2020. The panelists also speculated on which candidates will prevail in the Democratic primaries and the presidential election. To conclude the discussion, boating industry leaders asked questions about congressional oversight, health care, and if Congress can get through partisan gridlock. Madden emphasized that it is critical for boating industry stakeholders to continue what they started during ABC 2019 and make sure they tell members of Congress about the issues they face as critical economic drivers in their local communities.
Following the panel discussion, Representative Joe Cunningham (D-SC-01) spoke about the impact of the trade war and tariffs on boat manufacturers in South Carolina, and EPA Administrator Wheeler took the stage to talk about the administration's commitment to working with stakeholders across the country to ensure America's waterways remain pristine.
ABC 2019 closed out with a farewell lunch, where the Eddie Smith Award was presented to NMMA president, Thom Dammrich, and the Hammond Marine Industry Award was presented to Bill Yeargin, president and CEO of Correct Craft. NMMA also previewed ABC 2020, which will be held in a new location at the Intercontinental on D.C.'s historic wharf.
NMMA thanks all ABC 2019 sponsors, co-hosts, and committed boating industry stakeholders for making this year’s industry a success and ensuring the industry’s voice is heard in our nation's capital.