If there’s one common characteristic of government affairs and boating, it is the number of groups that end in “A” and all seem to fit together in the puzzle of the state’s $7 billion boating economy. Not only are there a slew of groups, but what they each do and how they fit together can dizzy even the most seasoned politico.
Here’s my attempt to help unscramble their acronyms and explain their niche in our collective voice. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. If there’s a favorite group of yours that’s not mentioned, drop me a line and let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In no particular order, here it goes:
Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) (full disclosure, my employer): This 72-year-old organization has 735 member businesses and brings us the Seattle Boat Show each year. I serve as their director of government affairs and parcel out my time tackling regulatory and legislative ideas and proposals that rear their head in Olympia, Washington’s state capital.
Washington Maritime Federation (WMF): The state’s maritime industry comes together here. If boating and recreational fishing means $7 billion, the entire industry is $38 billion. Boating has a large presence here, thanks to their election and re-election of yours truly as the board chair. Just as with boating, this entire ecosystem addresses permitting, workforce, taxation, and general business issues in the same fashion.
Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW): If NMTA and the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association (NYBA)—another notable trade association that plays the convener for yacht brokers—then RBAW is the voice for boaters. It will not come as a surprise to readers of this column that boaters and businesses that specialize in boating speak with one voice 99 times out of 100. RBAW’s volunteer leadership and lobbyist make our lives easier on the water. They provide the grassroots voice lawmakers need to hear from.
According to the national trade association for boating businesses (i.e. National Marine Manufacturers Association, NMMA), over half the state’s 240,000 recreational boats are used for fishing all or some of the time. Naturally, recreational fishing needs representation in Olympia and they have it, with a seasoned lobbyist and organization that is called the Coastal Conservation Association. Their main interest is to advance recreational fishing opportunity for Washington in Puget Sound and the Columbia River.
But wait, there’s more.
The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA) bring another business complement to NMTA. They care about recreational fishing advocacy, too, and share a lobbyist with NMTA in Olympia. Their leader Liz Hamilton is especially adept at the economic facts and figures that boating and fishing mean business.
Interestingly, each of the groups that I’ve highlighted has a lobbying presence. Maybe that’s why they are so top of mind for me and lawmakers. When a legislator wants to hear what the boaters think, they will reach out to one of these group’s lobbyists. Because of the alignment of the various groups, legislators take our boating wishes, desires, and dreads more seriously because our voice is not scattered.
Maybe that’s it; one unified chorus that represents the various facets of boating is the essential ingredient for success. As NMTA’s president George Harris likes to say, “Boating means something different to different people.” That same sentiment can apply to lawmakers and how they see boating.
If we are diffuse in our message, let’s roll out the welcome mat out for disaster. Bring on the boating fees and taxes and less days on the water. The flip side is as gleaming as the other side of that coin is tarnished.
Priorities and consensus, always the hallmark of a successful legislative effort, kick off the road to victory and are as essential as Opening Day to the start of boating season.
Speaking of boating season, I cherish the time on the water with my son August in, well, August. The pink salmon were abundant, which means that we limited out in a mere few hours. Getting our license, fueling up, catching our limit, marking our card, using the Mukilteo launch ramp, paying for parking; all those activities (and more) had me thinking of July’s column — “Politics is everywhere.” Fortunately, at the highest level, the comradery and mutual respect of the various organizations that have proactively hired government affairs advocates (aka lobbyists) are working over the summer so you can stay on the water and kick back.