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COLUMN:The economics of boating

THE HARBOR

October 27, 2006|By MIKE WHITEHEAD

Ahoy.

I was almost on JetBlue streaking across the skies this morning like a witch riding a broomstick on Halloween. Chandler Bell and I were invited by one of our sponsors, the Maritime Institute, to broadcast our radio show live from the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show on Saturday.

However, timing was an issue, and the sponsor would not arrive in Florida until Saturday night, a few hours after the conclusion of the radio show.

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So, our travel agent canceled the flight arrangements. Since the trip was last minute, there is not a hotel room available within miles of the boat show. However, we had two offers for accommodations from friends that probably meant sleeping on the carpet, but that's still better than on a park bench.

The reports from Fort Lauderdale are indicating that show is sold out for exhibitors and that people are flocking to the gates. Luckily, this year is sunny skies, unlike last year when Hurricane Wilma decided to attend the show.

This show is huge, with more than 3-million square feet of show space at six locations. There is over $1.6 billion, yes with a B, of boats and accessories at the show that runs through Monday.

Florida's economy receives more than $18 billion annually and the show is a huge boost to the economy, just as our two boat shows in Newport Beach are.

While on the topic of the marine industries, who has noticed that there are two West Marine stores less than a mile apart — one on West Coast Highway, the other on East Coast Highway?

A few years ago, West Marine acquired the retail stores from BoatUS, and this was just after BoatUS had opened a new store in Newport Beach. West Marine kept the BoatUS name on the stores until lately.

West Marine has experienced an 80% drop in profits for the third quarter, but this is expected as the company makes changes across the nation. I am interested to see how long the smaller store at East Coast Highway and Bayside Drive remains open, especially since West Marine has built the new building.

The major hit to our local marine businesses is the high cost of waterfront property or any property surrounding the bay front. Small businesses, which are the majority of marine businesses, are relocating farther and farther from the water. I am noticing on more invoices that travel time is being included, especially on those that charge an hourly rate.


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