NMMA Hall of Fame Award
2016: Robert Menne, Premier Marine and Victor Porter, Thunderbird/Formula
Robert Joseph Menne, Jr.’s success in the marine industry proves that by doing something you love with those that you love you can accomplish a great deal.
Bob’s start in the marine industry came in 1972, when he and his wife Betty founded Diversified Products., Inc., also known as DPI, and he represented Smoker Craft aluminum products, and a bit later, Sylvan products. In 1980 Bob became a partner in Forester Boats, which produced small fiberglass runabouts. Under Bob’s leadership the company expanded its product line to include aluminum boats and pontoons. Bob and his family sold DPI in 1989, although he remained involved with the business through 1991.
After the sale, Bob was unsure of what he wanted for the future. His “aha” moment came while listening to his teenagers argue over who would get to take the pontoon out. He realized they wanted to pontoon for the same reasons others did—it could do everything that other boats could do, but had room for more passengers. Thus in 1992, Bob and Betty set out to start a pontoon company like no other. Their mission: to offer a premium pontoon with amenities not offered elsewhere. That company, Premier Marine, quickly became the talk of the industry and set the bar for all other pontoons. Premier Marine made the pontoon boat “cool”.
Under Bob’s direction, Premier Marine introduced innovations and options that changed the public’s perception of pontoons. Among the industry firsts: rotation molded furniture, eliminating all wood except flooring, the patented J-Clip fastening system, hinge mechanisms, and top frame designs. The seagrass flooring that is now the industry standard was the work of Bob and his team. Premier Marine also offered the first full-size cuddy on a pontoon, and 12-ft. wide models equipped with three 300-hp motors. His focus on marketing the boating lifestyle has also set Premier Marine apart.
In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities at Premier Marine, Bob stepped up to give back to the marine industry. He offered guidance to the Boat Manufacturers Division (BMD) of the NMMA and the NMMA Board. He was active with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and an early member of the Take Me Fishing organization. He advised the Department of Natural Resources on boat ramp needs, in particular, the needs of the pontoon segment. He also advocated for the industry on Capitol Hill and has long been a strong voice encouraging every segment of the marine industry—large and small companies, independent businesses and enterprises—to work together for the good of the industry as a whole.
Bob’s true legacy is his willingness to pass his knowledge on to his family and his commitment to the marine industry. He proudly acknowledges his children, grandchildren, nephews, sister and brothers-in law for their contributions to Premier. As his family will attest, he believes in honoring your business relationships, supporting the entire industry and standing up for what is important