by Bob Wonders
America’s powerful National Marine Manufacturers Association or the NMMA as we have come to know it, could claim to be the world’s largest and most dominant recreational boating industry body.
The ’’brains trust’’ behind the MIami International Boat Show - NMMA president Thom Dammrich (right), vice-president Ben Wold (left) and Miami show manager Cathy Rick Joule.
Yet in what may come as a surprise to some, it boasts a relatively short history, having been established just 32-years ago (in 1979).
Prior to its formation, various industry bodies across the nation staged boat shows, but there was little in the way of a concerted front to promote the boating lifestyle as is done today.
The NMMA is no ‘small potato’, it boasts full-time staff of more than 80 people and in addition to its headquarters in Chicago has offices in Washington, DC, New York, Boston, Minnesota, Missouri, Kentucky and Miami.
Ben Wold, Executive Vice-President to President Thom Dammrich, has seen it all.
Ben Wold with Miami show manager Cathy Rick Joule.
A native of Chicago, Ben’s initial boating industry involvement pre-dates the NMMA
While still at college he began working as a junior ‘gofer’ assisting on boat shows in his home area.
He was well-placed to join the NMMA (as an operations coordinator) on its formation and has remained there ever since.
Thom Dammrich, Ben and their staff are responsible for the organisation and presentation of 18 recreational boat shows and the industry exhibit IBEX.
The shows comprise major events such as Miami, New York, New Orleans, Atlantic City and even Toronto (Canada).
Ben Wold is an unabashed supporter of ‘the boss’, Thom Dammrich.
'Thom has now been with the NMMA for 11-years and he’s done an outstanding job,' he said.
'He’s ‘out there’, he’s impressive behind a microphone and has won plenty of admirers throughout the industry,' he added.
The New York Boat Show is one that has caused the NMMA some sleepless nights (even in the city that never sleeps!).
Initially, the association lost its previously scheduled dates to various trade show and saw attendance drop from 92,000 to about 35,000 in just six-years.
Fortunately, NY is back on line and this year attracted 45,000 visitors with Ben declaring sales as being 'very good.'
On the current state of the industry, Ben exudes confidence.
'There’s a positive energy in the air,' he said.
'People are feeling good again and that’s important for us all.
'Interest in the boating lifestyle is improving and sales are definitely on the up and up,' he added.
America’s largest selling boat more or less mirrors that of the Australian market, a 17’6' (5.36-metres), outboard-powered half-cabin.
'However, deck boats or pontoon boats are on fire at the moment,' Ben explained.
'They’re ideal for the extensive lakes of the North American continent and they are selling like there’s no tomorrow,' he added.
On the strength of the NMMA, Ben Wold gives much of the credit to the association’s staff.
'We are very fortunate in that sense, we have achieved a nice balance of talent and many in the organisation have 20, 25 and more years of hands-on experience,' he explained.
For information pertaining to the NMMA, visit the website, www.nmma.com
Ben Wold, Executive VP of the NMMA has been with the associaton since its formation.
Thom Dammrich, affable NMMA President, has now clocked up 11-years at the helm.