Boating industry thriving in Ohio

SANDUSKY Ohio rates high in more than just college athletics. The state places in the
May 24, 2010



Ohio rates high in more than just college athletics.

The state places in the top 10 for the most registered boats in the nation. Last year, Ohio was ranked ninth with 412,578 boats registered in the state.

More than 6,000 boats were registered in Erie and Ottawa County last year. The number has steadily grown within the past five years. Local marinas are seeing rewards from the popular form of recreation.

The recreational boating industry generates about $3.5 billion for Ohio's economy and supports more than 26,000 jobs, according to a new study by Michigan State University's Great Lakes Commission and the Recreational Marine Research Center.

"Largely, it's Lake Erie," said John Wisse, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resource's Division of Watercraft. "It largely contributes to boating being popular in the state of Ohio."

The study shows a great boost by the boating industry, compared to similar data compiled in 1999 by The Ohio State University. Recreational boating in 1999 generated $1.4 billion in Ohio and supported about 19,500 jobs. The study, entitled "Great Lakes Recreational Boating's Economic Punch," used the U.S. Coast Guard's 2003 watercraft registration data as well as economic data from individual states.

About $1.96 billion was generated though the direct sales of boats, equipment, repairs, insurance and trip-related expenses such as gas, restaurants and marina fees.

Marinas and shoreline communities serving boaters in the Great Lakes area see the most economic benefits.

"We're significantly ahead in the number of slips sold and customers," said Battery Park Marina dock master Peter Zeiher. "We're pleasantly surprised."

So far this year, 86 percent of the marina's docks are occupied. Last year, the marina had about 78 percent occupied.

"It does bring a lot of out-of-town people to Sandusky," Zeiher said. "It's cheap waterfront property essentially."

About 700 slips have been rented this year at Cedar Point and Castaway Bay Marinas. Almost 2,000 boats from other areas have used the transient docks, said Bob Highlander, the director of marina operations for both marinas.

"This area is great for boating because of the islands," Highlander said. "A lot of boaters we get are from the Cleveland area, but some come from Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Michigan and as far as Kentucky."

The boating season runs roughly from May 1 to Oct. 31. The seasonal traffic has increased compared to previous years, but the transient business has been a bit slower, Highlander said.

The boating industry in the eight-state Great Lakes region, which include Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, directly supported 107,000 jobs and generated a regional primary economic impact estimated at nearly $16 billion. The study also concludes that secondary spending generated a total economic impact estimated at $34.6 billion and supported 244,000 jobs throughout the Great Lakes region.

More than four million watercraft are registered in the eight-state Great Lakes region. Of those watercraft, about 911,000 boats operate on the five Great Lakes and its incumbent waterways including Sandusky Bay, Maumee Bay and Lake St. Clair.

The top 10 states in numbers of registered watercraft last year were Florida, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, New York, South Carolina, Ohio and Illinois.

Boating boom

* An estimated three million Ohioans go boating each year.

* In 2005, Ohio registered 412,445 recreational watercraft, ranking it eighth among the 50 states in number of licensed boats.

* There are more than 100 boat builders, as well as trailer, accessory and engine manufacturers in the state.

* There are more than 450 marinas and boat dealerships, and more than 55,000 docks and rack storage spaces in Ohio.

* Boat ownership by women increased from 2.6 percent in 2001 to 4 percent in 2004.

* Watercraft registrations increased 8 percent overall between 1993 and 2003, including boats more than 26 feet long (up 27 percent) and canoes/kayaks (up 35 percent.)

* One in five Ohio boaters say they have taken an approved boating safety education course within the past five years.

* Nearly half of all Ohioans have gone boating at least once in their lifetime.

Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources