Sunday, July 4, 2004

Look Who's Talking: Ed Alf III

Ed Alf III is president of Sea Ray of Cincinnati. He says the improving U.S. economy is leading to increased boat sales.
The Fourth of July weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the peak season for recreational boating in Greater Cincinnati, and despite the summer's high fuel prices, this year is no different. Ed Alf III, president of Sea Ray of Cincinnati, a boat sales and service company that employs 40 people, sees boat sales trending upward this year thanks to an uptick in the economy.

HIGHER GASOLINE PRICES tend to discourage leisure car trips. Does it have the same impact on boating?

High gas prices may cause people to put fewer hours on their boat in a season. But I don't think it discourages them from buying a boat. You can still enjoy your boat without running your engine, whether at dock in a marina environment, whether you are anchored out in the middle of lake, swimming around your boat, having a picnic on the beach.

Our industry is trending up. The last two quarters have been really good. Inventories in our industry are at the lowest point in four years. Things are getting better, and we're seeing that. I think the economic environment is a lot better now than it was a year ago.

Certainly the demographics are playing in our favor. We have more empty nesters and people with disposable income.

ANY OTHER SIGNIFICANT demographic trends?

Another trend probably is a cocooning effect since 9-11. Families want to stay closer to home. We've seen a lot of interest in lake homes recently, whether it's Lake Cumberland, Norris Lake or Lake Lorelei.

We've seen a lot of families invest in a second, lake home they can drive to and have their boat and spend quality time with the family. Boating really allows everyone in the family to have fun doing the same thing together. Families have different interests. Boating provides some common ground.

COULD YOU TALK about water pollution and the local rivers, and also about the rejuvenation opportunities of recreation?

I don't have any surveys or stats to support this, but from what I understand, the quality of the water in the river is better than it has been. Every year it gets better and better. I think boaters will go where the water is clean. I don't hear a lot in the media today that I heard about water quality a few years back.

With a boat you can trailer to lots of different lakes in the area: Cumberland, Brookville and Caesar Creek. You can camp out or maybe spend the night on your boat.

People want to get away from the hustle that we go through each week. People work hard, they play hard and at some point you have to take time out and reflect, enjoy life, spend time with family and friends.

John Eckberg

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