“Everyone knows the big stuff, particularly FLIBS (Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show), Winterfest Boat Parade, and that we consider ourselves the yachting capital of the world,” proclaims Bill Walker, President of Fort Lauderdale’s Water Taxi, about the reputation of the marine industry in Fort Lauderdale.
“But not many know about the literally thousands of people in small businesses that provide products, services, and support to the industry, as well as the amount of money spent in other businesses by the boaters to keep their vessels running, crews fed, and tourists happy.”
With this enthusiasm, Bill and Lori Wheeler, Director of Operations at the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) resurrected the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber’s Marine Advisory Committee in early 2018. Their goal: to get the word out to the greater Fort Lauderdale community about the power and the size of the $8.8B marine industry.
With more than 2 million feet of shoreline, 117,000 jobs, $1.5 billion boat related sales, 30,000 docks, and over 44,000 registered recreational watercraft, the marine industry and lifestyle are a force in Fort Lauderdale.
The Marine Advisory Committee started out as a small group of individuals bound by a common cause, doing their part for the Marine Industry in Broward County. At the beginning, the members represented manufacturing, marine electronics, marinas, transportation and other services, support, legal, financial services, accounting, marketing companies, and just avid boaters.
Knowing that the group needed a focused energy and purpose, Lori suggested a Vision and Mission Statement for the Committee which became the following.
Vision: Working to sustain and protect a vibrant marine industry in Fort Lauderdale
Mission: The Marine Advisory Committee is dedicated to creating awareness, promoting safety, and connecting businesses to sustain and grow the marine industry and its positive impact on the Greater Fort Lauderdale economy.
As of October, the Committee has worked well, launching an awareness campaign with a luncheon panel focused on many statistics and factoids about the size of the marine industry. Within the Committee, everyone is contributing to blog posts, participating on panels, and making sure the agenda and meeting minutes get circulated beyond the committee. And word has gotten out. At FLIBS, the Committee is sponsoring a breakfast and is pleased to announce renowned artist and activist Guy Harvey as the guest speaker.
Functionally, the Marine Advisory Committee also focuses on several other topics, which impact not only the marine industry but also other industries and businesses, including: workforce –attracting and developing talent; transportation (including “The Bridge”), the environment of the oceans and waterfront areas, and affordable housing for marine industry workers.
The Committee has come a long way but, as Gerry Angeli, Executive Vice President of ACR Electronics likes to say, “There is more work to do.” Maintaining an ongoing awareness of the topics current to the community, as well as creating processes for how the work gets researched and done, is important to keep the momentum moving forward. The Committee seeks to be productive and relevant in the years to come and energy within the group is high. New members are joining the committee and projects are moving forward; even better, the group is having a good time doing it. As Gerry says, “it doesn’t get any better than that!
Marine Advisory Committee members include: William Walker, Lori Wheeler, Kim Sweers, Andrew Horowitz, Gerry Angeli, Orlie Jedwab, Adam Spiegel, John Chapman, Karl Gallet, Megan Lagasse, Holly Gibson, Janet Granger, Jeff Kramer, Randy Abraham, Steven Joiner, Bob Janco, Mike Meyer, Theresa Sebastian, and Carrie Jenne.