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The Virginia Marine Trades Association hosted their fourth annual conference on the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Gloucester Point campus last week.
The VMTA is a non-profit organized to promote and support Virginia’s recreational marine industry, including boatyards, marinas, and charter operators. The association represents its members before elected officials and state agencies, keeps them informed on legislative and regulatory issues, and develops and promotes educational opportunities for those seeking work in the industry.
“As a marine industry, the VMTA is a client of VIMS as reflected in the Code of Virginia,” says Associate Director of Marine Advisory Services Tom Murray, VIMS extension staff affiliated with Virginia Sea Grant. “We attempt to conduct research and advisory efforts that foster the marine industries—in this case recreational boating—and enable water access for many Virginians.”
Murray—an honorary board member of the VMTA—says the annual conference offers in-service training to bring together subject-matter experts to assist small business in doing a better job of seeing what lies ahead that may impact their businesses.
“The VMTA are our constituents for clean water and environmental stewardship as their businesses rely entirely on the Commonwealth’s marine resources,” says Murray. “The annual conference is important because it helps members comply with myriad regulations, from wetlands rules to national fire-protection standards.”
“We feel that knowing what’s happening outside of our borders expands our knowledge of what we do day-to-day,” says VMTA President Keith Ruse. “Our conference has grown this year, but that is just part of the overall changes we have made to VMTA in the past 12 months.”
During the conference, Clean Marina Specialist Anne Smith, VIMS extension staff affiliated with Virginia Sea Grant, took the opportunity to present Craig Brown of Whitehouse Cove Marina in Poquoson with a 2014 Outstanding Project Award from the States Organization for Boating Access. Whitehouse Cove was recognized with this annual award because of their recent project to rehabilitate their entire marina.
The Virginia Clean Marine Program—headquartered at VIMS—promotes voluntary measures that prevent or reduce pollution from traditional and non-traditional marinas, boatyards, and recreational boats. When operators adopt these measures, their marinas are designated as a “Virginia Clean Marina.” To date, 74 marinas in Virginia have received this designation, including Whitehouse Cove.
Smith says the VMTA conference provides the unique opportunity to bring members of the marine industry in Virginia together to discuss emerging issues.
Educational sessions at this year’s conference aimed to provide all components of the Commonwealth’s marine enterprises with a topic of interest and value that they can take back to their business. The conference featured nine different speakers who introduced audiences to an array of local and global topics including how to respond to oil spills, how to engage new workers for the marine industry, how to grow a business with social media, and how to work with the Virginia Tourism Corporation to promote a marina.
Ann Marcheras, Regional Research Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, served as the keynote speaker for the event, discussing how current economic trends in Virginia impact the demand for recreational boating.
Comprised of more than 100 members, the VMTA consists of dealerships, boatyards, builders, marinas, sales brokers, boating-service providers, marine technicians, and individuals committed to the development of the marine industry and the strength of each member business.