MRAA, Dealers Share Concerns at American Boating Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 16, 2023 – Last week, the recreational boating industry, including the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, visited Washington, D.C., for the annual American Boating Congress (ABC) hosted by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. MRAA staff, members of the MRAA Board of Directors and several MRAA members brought marine industry issues to Capitol Hill for one-on-one conversations with lawmakers.

MRAA Chairman of the Board Jeff Strong (center) joins MRAA President Matt Gruhn (left) and MRAA VP of Business Planning Mike Davin at the 2023 American Boating Congress.

ABC, an integral event for the recreational boating industry’s advocacy efforts, gives business leaders like marine dealers and others across the industry, the opportunity to discuss issues impacting their businesses and the recreational boating industry, with decision makers who determine policy and legislative efforts. These key conversations develop relationships between dealerships and other business leaders and members of Congress, laying critical groundwork for the MRAA government relations team.

“MRAA’s focus on federal, as well as state-based advocacy efforts has never been stronger, and with several dealers participating in this fly-in event for the first time, our connectivity with and visibility in front of members of Congress continues to grow,” says Matt Gruhn, MRAA President. “It’s critically important that dealer participation in these important efforts continues to expand and that we continue to strengthen our relationships in Washington so the business of boating isn’t caught off guard by bad policies and legislative threats.”

Members of Congress, including Representatives Garret Graves (R-LA-06) and Pete Stauber (R-MN-08) and Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), provided key Congressional insights for attendees of ABC, and several members of Congress confirmed their support for recreational boating industry and policy priorities, while discussing current challenges this Congress.

From the left: Ben Palmer, Legislative Correspondant for Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN- 09), Alex Schnelle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Chad Tokowicz, MRAA Government Relations Manager, Natalie Carrera, Director of Marketing and Global Communications for Indmar Produts, and Craig Cochran, Manufacturers Sales Rep at GSW and Associates

Attendees also received an update on the state of play on Capitol Hill from Politico bureau chief and senior political columnist Jonathan Martin. Martin discussed the impact current negotiations on the debt ceiling have for industry policy priorities while also providing a high-level overview of what to expect as the 2024 presidential race begins to pick up steam.

“ABC is a principal event for the recreational boating industry and dealers, because not only can we spotlight our industry and its top priorities, but the event also grants us an insider’s view on the key conversations taking place at the federal government level,” said Chad Tokowicz, Government Relations Manager, MRAA. “Armed with that insight, ABC attendees like MRAA’s members can then make genuine requests related to the boating industry’s needs for continued economic growth and sustainability.”

From the left: Jeff Angers, President Center for Sportfishing Policy, George Cooper, Partner Forbes Tate, and Paul Ryan, Partner at DCI Group.

During ABC’s scheduled programming, numerous presentations were made, discussing the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Right Whale Vessel Speed Rule.  NOAA’s proposal to restrict all vessels 35 feet or longer to 10 knots between November and June on the Eastern Seaboard seeks to protect the endangered Right Whale. Expert speakers provide an overview of the current status of the rule as expectations for moving forward; a newly created Whale and Vessel Safety Task Force shared industry efforts to build solutions to create a safer boating environment, while maintaining access and minimalizing the impact to Right Whales. And Sen. Manchin provided a rousing overview, promising to fight NOAA’s proposal on behalf of the marine industry. Learn more about MRAA’s efforts for the Right Whale Rule and how to get involved.

“This is the essence of the American Boating Congress,” Tokowicz explains. “Industry relationships developed with key decision makers like Senator Manchin can serve to protect the health of our industry when bad policies and threats like this speed restriction pop up.”

During meetings on Capitol Hill, MRAA members met with their members of Congress to discuss a variety of MRAA policy priorities as well as issues directly impacting their business, like shortages in the marine industry workforce, concerns with dealership regulation, and impediments to access, like the speed restriction. Providing members of Congress with direct examples of how local businesses are being impacted proved crucial for highlighting the needs of the recreational boating industry, especially issues impacting the dealer on the frontlines.

If you have any questions about ABC or would like to plan to attend it in 2024, email Chad Tokowicz at

About the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas

At the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, we believe that for the marine industry to thrive, the retail organizations that interact with the boaters in their community must thrive. With that in mind, MRAA works to create a strong and healthy boating industry by uniting those retailers, providing them with opportunities for improvement and growth, and representing them with a powerful voice. For more information, visit or contact us at 763-315-8043.