A Positive Economic Outlook in South Florida

4 February 2019 By Laura Dunn

With marine-related sales shooting up an unprecedented 124 percent in Miami since 2014, the boating industry in South Florida is doing quite well. That’s one of the many optimistic figures in the most recent edition of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) four-year reviews. Their 2018 study examined the marine industry’s economic impact in South Florida, revealing some promising numbers for the local yachting industry (and the industry as a whole). Regionally, the marine industry economic output went up from $11.5 billion to $12 billion and local job numbers increased by almost 6,000 (for a total of 141,788). Furthermore, marine sales of nearly $3 billion represented more than 44 percent of Florida’s total.

Phil Purcell, president and CEO of MIASF, understands the importance of a routine economic impact study that offers insights into industry trends. Purcell says the uptick in numbers is a result of people investing and reinvesting in the industry. “What drives it is the [people over decades] building their brands and honing their employees and the people that have joined the firms from all over the world,” Purcell says, adding that when you walk in a yard, you’ll see people from South Africa, New Zealand, Europe, and Australia. “Literally, all over the world people work in our industry and reside in South Florida, because it’s this hub and a great place to do business. You know, not having a personal [state] income tax is another great advantage of working and playing here.”

It doesn’t hurt that in South Florida, multiple opportunities exist for a substantial economic boom, such as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the biggest in-water boat show in the world, which Purcell says brings in $857 million annually. The Miami and Palm Beach boat shows also work to draw new people into the industry — when those people make sales or purchases at shows, a lot of time the work ends up in South Florida. “Boats change hands, people make purchases or see equipment they want to add to their vessel, and the next thing you know, that stimulates the economy,” Purcell says.

Businesses that reinvest in the area are strong contributors to these rising numbers — such as Roscioli Yachting Center, Lauderdale Marine Center, Derecktors Shipyards, and RMK Marine. Purcell pointed to Bradford Marine on Fort Lauderdale’s New River, which recently changed hands. “The gentleman that entered into the industry who purchased that, comes from the cell phone industry, but he was a boater,” Purcell says. “I’m sure he’s going to take a lot of the business sense that he has and apply it a little bit more to our industry, which should make it better!”

Many yards have been making substantial investments from Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale and down to Miami now with RMK Marine coming online. Purcell explains that a lot of money that they’re putting in is part of what adds to this upswing. “When you add infrastructure and you add new equipment, you’re going to make an impact where you’re going to lure the boats for refit and repair — and the crew,” he says.

While a lot of information was revealed by the study, Purcell says it boils down to this: “I think the biggest takeaway is that our industry is a tight-knit group, it’s a really big industry, but we all know each other pretty well. It’s very unique — as big as this industry is, it’s very unique. The nice thing is it’s not dominated by any one player, whether it’s the manufacturer or whether it’s the provider,” he says, adding, “I don’t care if it’s the air-conditioning company or electronics company. There’s enough of it to go around as long as everyone does good, ethical business, and collaborates with each other, understanding that if everyone works harder and with the same kind of goals of doing the right thing, then our industry shines because the only person we can’t afford to lose in this whole thing is the consumer.”

It just takes everybody working together. For instance, says Purcell, Detroit ruled the world in the automotive industry. “And then, people didn’t pay attention, people didn’t reinvest, people didn’t keep up with the trends that the consumer wanted. And the good news is, I know our industry here in South Florida is doing all those things. Doesn’t mean we can’t get better.”