Few States Spend More On Boating Than Minnesota, Report Finds
For many in the land of 10,000 lakes, Memorial Day weekend acts as the unofficial start of the state’s summer boating season. A significant number of those boaters, however, are likely breaking in a new kayak or pontoon.
A new report by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) found that Minnesotans spent $661.5 million on a new powerboat, engine, trailer or accessories last year. That’s up 10 percent from 2014.
In fact, Minnesotans are some of the nation’s biggest buyers in the recreational boating market. Spending in the state surpassed all but three other water-heavy states—Florida ($2.6 billion), Texas ($1.4 billion) and Michigan ($842.5 million).
Minnesota residents own about 7 percent of all registered boats in the U.S. (amounting to more than 809,000 boats), which is the second-highest portion in the country. Boat ownership in the state was once around 867,000 boats but that number started falling in 2009 in part due to the Great Recession. Data gathered by the NMMA, though, suggests that the country as a whole is purchasing boats and accessories at a newfound pace.
In the U.S., new powerboat sales increased 8.5 percent in 2015 compared to a year ago. The same goes for outboard boats like pontoons and fiberglass cruising boats (up 7.6 percent), personal watercrafts (14.6 percent) and jet boats (25.7 percent). Only inboard cruisers, such as yachts, remained level with its year-ago sales.
Altogether, the U.S. recreational boating industry accounts for an annual economic impact of more than $121.5 billion. Upwards of 650,000 Americans are directly or indirectly employed by the nearly 35,000 businesses within the industry.
Many of those jobs and companies exist within Minnesota—the most recent data shows 676 businesses and 42,668 jobs are held in the state. Some of those businesses are significant players within the boating industry, most notably boat manufacturers Lund and Crestliner.
Beyond business, Minnesota has also been a major player in the history of aquatic entertainment.
Back in 1922, inventor Ralph Samuelson affixed two 8-foot-long pine boards to his feet, then took hold of a rope attached to a powerboat and became the first person to water ski. The Lake City native even ski-jumped and speed-skied (going 80 miles per hour behind a flying boat at one point).
Just 29 years later, Richmond resident Ambrose Weeres invented one of the most popular summer boats of today. By attaching a wooden platform atop two steel barrels welded together end-to-end, he built the first-ever pontoon. Weeres tested the boat on Horseshoe Lake with the intention that it’d be more stable than the conventional fishing boat.
Although slightly unrelated, the Golden Valley-based food conglomerate General Mills also had an unusual foray into marine vehicle manufacturing. In 1962, the company introduced a deep-sea submersible named ALVIN, the first-of-its-kind vessel that could be transported on-ship versus being towed. ALVIN has a long history of use, including the retrieval of a lost hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean Sea and being the first to scout the wreck of the Titanic.