Boating's Boon

March 23, 1995

A recent study by the University of Maryland College Park shows that boating is big business in Maryland, and nowhere in the state is it bigger than in Anne Arundel County.

The economic study revealed that recreational boating contributes more than $1 billion to the state's economy and creates more than 18,000 full-time jobs, which translates into $574 million in annual wages and $4.3 million in tax revenue. And boaters do more than lounge in deck chairs. They spend an average of $5,136 each year on boat fuel, food, lodging, clothing and fishing supplies.

In Anne Arundel County, the numbers are even more significant.

The UMCP study showed that boaters spend $191.5 million in the county, excluding boat purchases -- far more than in any Maryland jurisdiction, and 22 percent of the total spent on boating supplies in the state. The findings are similar to those of an earlier study conducted by the city of Annapolis, which showed that boaters spend $137.8 million in the state capital and help support more than 1,400 jobs.

Although the numbers of the latest study are impressive, University of Maryland College Park researcher Douglas W. Lipton, notes that it is even more important to realize how many businesses benefit from boating. "In other words, it's not just a bunch of marinas. There are a lot of industries that supply the marinas in the state that employ a lot of people," Mr. Lipton said.

The entire Anne Arundel County Council is now supporting a bill that would eliminate entirely the tax the county charges on boat slips by the year 1997. But politicians, especially in the city of Annapolis, have not always acted as though they recognize the importance of the boating industry to the local economy.

Annapolis has the same levy at its marinas, but Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins strongly opposes repeal of the tax, saying the city needs the revenue. And last year, when the mayor spent $3,000 to attract sailing's prestigious Whitbread Round the World race to Annapolis, some alderman complained he was wasting money. (The race is coming to Annapolis in 1998, and is expected to pump up to $15 million into the local economy.)

Although skeptics remain, this latest study ought to help persuade them that boating is more than a leisurely pastime. Especially to Anne Arundel County, it is a big business and ought to be promoted.

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