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SWOT Analysis for PNW Boating

by Peter Schrappen

Now for something completely different, I offer a recreational boating SWOT for you to throw darts at or hang on your power wall. For the uninitiated, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis was invented in the 1960s by management consultant Albert Humphrey at the Stanford Research Institute.

Previously, corporate planning had not met with much success. Fortune 500 companies needed a way to produce long-term planning that was executable and reasonable and, voila, the SWOT analysis was born.
Let’s give it a go, shall we? Here’s my SWOT analysis for the Pacific Northwest boating scene:


Raw numbers: There are 240,000 registered boats in Washington, which doesn’t count for any boats less than 16 feet and 20 horsepower. The boating economy contributes $6.9 billion to Washington’s economy and $121 billion overall.

Peak experience: Is there an activity out there that brings together nature, the environment, adventure, sport, and on and on like recreational boating and fishing? If the psychologist Abraham Maslow was right about the hierarchy of needs and that it’s all about reaching the peak of your pyramid to achieve self-actualization, then I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was talking about boating as a key element to success.

Advocacy efforts: While you are out cruising, an A-plus-caliber lobbying team is speaking up on your behalf in Olympia to protect and grow boating. Fortunately for us; business, fishing allocation, permitting, and boating laws have spokespeople that get their calls returned and are consulted before laws are created.


False narrative: Too many lawmakers use shortcuts to their thinking and stereotype boaters as all part of the 1%. When this occurs, it’s that much harder for them to take our concerns seriously. Too many agencies regulate boating: Nine different agencies in Washington regulate boating and fishing. Put another way, regulators at nine different agencies wake up every morning thinking about how they can create more regulations for boating and fishing.

We are just one of many: There is so much noise in Olympia clamoring for attention. Boating has a (relatively) small PAC to make contributions. Our issues are not seen as important as others (like finding funding to cure cancer) and there are so many organizations and elected officials promoting their bills on behalf of their priorities. Looking for a data point? There were 2,214 bills introduced in the 2018 legislative session.


Education funding: Have you taken your boat to get repaired recently only to find out that you are at the end of the line and it’s a long wait? Thanks to the reframing of marine trades workforce issues around education funding and state Representative Gael Tarleton’s leadership, $4 million was allocated to bolster career and technical education in Washington’s school system.

Getting your voice heard: Whether it’s in Olympia or Washington, D.C. (or maybe from your galley), there are ample openings to weigh in on the legislative process. Lawmakers love hearing from you (although they may act otherwise). Let me know if you would like to get acquainted with your elected official. While some say that they work for us, I like to say that our job is to make their lives easier.

Washington Boating Alliance: Unfortunately, this organization has languished in 2018. I’m putting it out here; I will get this vital organization rebooted and will make it the backbone of my column in 2020. Stay tuned.


Decreasing salmon populations: Each year, recreational anglers see less opportunity to salmon fish, but are asked for more money. There’s a direct relationship between a decrease in boat sales and less days on the water fishing. And I haven’t even gone into the impacts of global warming or gillnets on salmon or declining whale populations. Not to mention the complexity of fish politics and yikes, there’s a recipe for trouble.

Tightening of regulations: Regulations will only get tougher over time. There’s a principle called backsliding, which simply means that regulations like the Boatyard Permit can only get tougher with each iterative permit. As for an emerging regulatory threat, look to see a clamping down on wakesurfing in Washington’s lakes.

The smart phone: I am concerned that too many people are resorting to playing on their phones and not engaging in politics and even boating. Look around. Everyone is on their phone. Phones are not just an extension of us, they are us. I am concerned that humans will just couch surf and not wakesurf soon.

What does your SWOT look like? Let me know.

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