Foreign boat buyers get matched with U.S. manufacturers at the upcoming Miami boat show

02/12/2014 4:10 PM

02/12/2014 6:29 PM

Recreational fishing boats HydroSports and SeaHunter can maneuver the waves off Dubai or Japan just as well as they can the waters of Biscayne Bay.

So the Islamorada-based factory-direct sales office for the crafts is targeting overseas sales, hoping a government-sponsored program will link it to international buyers during the upcoming Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show, which runs Thursday through Monday.

HydroSports and SeaHunter are participating for the first time in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program, which connects U.S. companies with foreign businesses to boost export sales.

This is the second year the Miami Boat Show is partnering in the program, offering its exhibitors an added link to the foreign market. Exhibitors must have pre-registered by last week. There is no fee, but the exhibitor must be a National Marine Manufacturers Association member or an exhibitor that sells a U.S.-manufactured product.

“What I like about this program is it gives new-to-export companies an opportunity to get their feet wet, so to speak, in the international arena. So they don’t have to make the huge investment required to travel overseas, because the buyers are coming to them,” said Julie Balzano, export development director for NMMA, the trade association for the recreational boating industry. The association produces 23 boat shows annually, including the Miami show, one of the world’s largest.

All the international buyers are recruited by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s network of commercial specialists around the world, said Gary Rand, director of the International Buyer’s Program. Once recruited, the NMMA can link them to suppliers from its list of prequalified vendors, including boat builders and equipment manufacturers, to schedule appointments.

Overall, the International Buyer Program participates in more than 35 major industry trade shows every year, including the Consumer Electronics Show, the Graphics of the Americas show and the Fancy Food Show, said Rand, who is based in Washington, D.C.

Across all industries, the International Buyer Program has helped generate $1.7 billion in export sales from 2011 to 2013, Rand said. More than 46 percent of the sales were exports by a firm to a new market.

Already, 200 buying representatives from 102 companies in 22 countries have signed up for appointments through the program for the Miami International Boat Show, Rand said. The show takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center and Sea Isle Marina.

“The Miami Boat Show is one of the biggest boat shows in the world. Everybody comes from all over the world, so we see nothing but positives working with a program like this,” said Terri Nuechterlein, director of marketing at the factory-direct sales center for SeaHunter and HydroSports, which will have a booth at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The boats will be available to try out at Sea Isle Marina. SeaHunters, manufactured in South Miami-Dade, range in price from $89,900 for a 24-foot bay boat, to $549,900 for a 45-foot center console boat, with outriggers, rod holders, bolster seating and other options. HydroSports, made in Stuart and Tennessee, cost $79,900 for a 23-foot boat to more than 600,000 for 42-foot with luxury options like teak flooring, teak tables and a tower.

During the past year, both brands have enjoyed overseas sales to Dubai, Spain, Japan, the Bahamas and other Caribbean nations, Nuechterlein said.

So far, through the International Buyer Program, two more potential buyers from Dubai have signed up to meet at the Miami Boat Show, she said. “Our boats handle the big water that is there.”

Accmar Equipment Co., a Kendall-based manufacturer of dock equipment, is also registered in the international program. The company manufactures such items as power pedestals for docks and marinas, fire safety equipment, boat fenders, dock ladders and other items, said Accmar President Juan Pizarro, who founded the company in 2007.

During the recession, Accmar focused on the international market, selling to buyers from Dubai, Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia. Pizarro said 40 percent of the company’s sales are international.

Last year, Accmar’s participation in the International Buyer Program led to sales in Panama and South Korea.

“I believe this is a great tool the Miami Boat Show is providing for their customers, because it gives us the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the buyers, and the industry right now is about relationships,” said Pizarro, who will be exhibiting on the main floor of the show at the convention center.

“You can’t fly to all these countries,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we will get a positive lead that might turn into a sale from the program.”

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