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Marine manufacturers CEO tackles boat industry decline


Recent years have been fraught with challenges, as Chicago’s NMMA chief seeks to promote activity to wider audience

February 24, 2012

Thom Dammrich wasn’t a boater when he became CEO of the Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Association 12 years ago, but he says discovering boating is one of the best things that ever happened to him.

After a two-decade career in association management, leading NMMA was an opportunity to expand beyond the traditional business-to-business bailiwick of trade groups. NMMA’s consumer boat shows, along with the association’s drive to promote the waterborne lifestyle and dislodge stereotypes of boaters, appealed to him.

But the last few years haven’t been smooth sailing. Like many industries hard hit by the turbulent economy of recent years, NMMA has struggled with staggering drops in both boat production and retail sales. As members fought to survive, NMMA’s PAC shrunk and the association battened down on two primary objectives: advocacy and market expansion.