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Task force focused on industry diversity

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Jonathan Sweet, Editor in Chief
May 1, 2014
Filed under Features

Take a look at the statistics and it’s pretty obvious why diversity has become such a buzzword for the marine industry.

• The Hispanic population in the United States, already 17 percent of the total population today, is expected to double in size by 2050
• The Hispanic luxury market niche has grown by 221 percent in the last decade and is growing faster than all other groups.
• Asian Americans are the highest income and best-educated ethnic group in the U.S.
• Over the past two decades, African American buying power has more than doubled and grown 50 percent faster than that of the U.S. population as a whole.
• The total number of affluent ethnic households is now estimated at more than 15.6 million

It’s numbers like these that have many in the industry taking notice of the need to reach outside the traditional white male customer base to sell boats.

A new Diversity Task Force met for the first time at the Miami International Boat Show and is developing a two-year plan of outreach and education around the Asian, Hispanic and African-American population.

The task force is reaching out to minority boaters to help spread the word. (Photos courtesy of Discover Boating)

The task force is reaching out to minority boaters to help spread the word. (Photos courtesy of Discover Boating)

The task force is a part of the Recreational Boating Leadership Council, a group of industry leaders working together to achieve long-term growth in boating. Diversity is one of the six priority action areas identified by the RBLC.

“It has to be a wakeup call to the industry, because if we don’t embrace diversity we’re not going to grow,” said Wanda Kenton Smith, chair of the Diversity Task Force. “If we are totally focused on the white male, we’re going to be in trouble. The numbers bear that out.”

The task force will consist of three subcommittees, each with its own objectives:

• The Education/Communication Committee will be focused on communicating information on diversity to the industry at large. This group will also be responsible for educating dealers on the importance of embracing diverse markets.
• The RBFF Partnership Committee is responsible for working with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, which has undertaken a large multi-year project to reach out to the Hispanic population. RBFF is working with Lopez Negrete, a Hispanic-owned marketing agency, on the program, which is currently focused on the Texas and Florida markets.
• The Multicultural Marine Teams & Outreach Committee is working on developing subcommittees of ethnic representatives in the marine industry to identify barriers to entry and understand perceptions of boating in various ethnic groups.

While the task force is concentrating on the three ethnic groups for the initial two years, plans are to look at other niches in the future, such as the gay and lesbian market, Kenton Smith said.

For more information about the task force or to get involved, contact Kenton Smith at wanda@kentonsmithmarketing.com.

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