For a couple of days earlier this week, Chattanooga was the focal point for a growing segment of the boating industry.
More than 30 boating and fishing writers from across the country were in town for two days as officials from Yamaha Marine Group discussed the state of the boating industry and announced Yamaha's newest additions to its 2013 line of outboard boat motors and other marine products.
The downturn in the economy over the past four years had an impact on boating as sales dropped and profits fell across the industry. However, Yamaha Marine Group Vice President Dean Burnett said that a slight increase in sales over the past year has given the company hope for growth in the coming months.
"From what our builders and dealers are telling us, we're forecasting anywhere from a six to 10 percent growth over the next 24 to 36 months," Burnett told media members Monday night during a presentation at the Chattanoogan conference center. "We're seeing former boaters stepping back into the market."
Yamaha Marine Group, based in Kennesaw, Ga., specializes in outboard boat motors, boat propellers and related products used on a variety of watercraft such as bass and offshore fishing boats as well as pontoon and other pleasure boats.
With projected resurgence in boating, Yamaha officials said that engaging with writers focused on the industry is important part of their strategy.
"Bringing in the trade media was important, because they are hungry for good stories about the boating industry," said Martin Peters, communications and dealer education manager with Yamaha Marine Group. "For too long, there haven't been many good stories in the boating industry, and we had 34 members of the boating media here in Chattanooga to see what we're doing."
Media members attended a presentation at The Chattanoogan conference center Monday night where Yamaha highlighted its new products for 2013.
Among the products introduced were a new high-performance 150 horsepower outboard, a lightweight four-stroke 200 horsepower motor and a lightweight 9.9 horsepower motor.
The biggest new product introduced was a new boat control system called Helm Master, which is designed to allow boaters greater control and to simplify docking on select outboard motorboats with the help of a joystick control system.
On Tuesday morning, the media was taken to Yamaha's testing facility on the Tennessee River in Bridgeport, Ala., to get hand-on experience with the new products.
Writers tried out various styles of boats outfitted with new motors and the Helm Master system, and seminars were held in the Bridgeport facility explaining the technical aspects and enhancements that will be on the market next year.
Yamaha officials hope that events such as the one this week will get the word out about products the company is introducing and encourage more people to take up or return to boating in the next year.
"It's important to reach out to the trade media when we are introducing new products," Peters said. "Third-person endorsements always work better when launching new products, and having these trade media members come to our facility to test these products and really learn how they work will help us get the word out to our consumers.
"That's really valuable to us."