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Boat show bounces back
Event draws many dealers from Forsyth
Marine Max 1 es
Steve Thompson of MarineMax shows an example Tuesday of a boat that will be at the show in Atlanta. - photo by Emily Saunders
Buoyed by a full Lake Lanier and improving economy, the local boating industry is ready for the 48th annual Atlanta Boat Show.

Chris Smith, who owns Banner Rama Custom Boat Lettering with husband Mike, said the 2010 event is a great way “to get my name out there and drum up business for this year.”

The 10-year-old business is making its first appearance at the show, which runs through Sunday at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.  

It’s also Steve Thompson’s first time participating, though his company, MarineMax of Georgia, is no stranger to the annual event.

The boating giant, which has taken part for more than a decade, has one of the largest displays, said Thompson, who manages the Forsyth County location.

The show, he said, “sets the pace for the new boating season.”

“It’s the start of a new boating season with the Atlanta Boat Show for all the boat dealers in the metro area,” he said. “It’s kind of the kickoff. It’s like the Indy 500 of boating.”

With the drought of 2007-09 and slowing economy, the show posted lower turnouts the past couple years.

A year ago, the level of Lanier was 1,056.14 feet above sea level. Wednesday morning, it was at 1,070.44, slightly below full pool of 1,071.

Last year’s drop-off at the show caused Terry Morrisey to shift his priorities.

The J&L Dock Supply owner is sitting out this winter’s show after participating every year since the business opened 15 years ago.

The show has, however, helped boost business in the past and he plans to return next year.

“We decided to take a break and do some other stuff here,” he said. “We’ve just got a lot of other projects and we’re doing a lot of work to the facility.”

Chris Smith said 2008 was a difficult year for them, but “it picked up fairly well in 2009 over 2008.”

Her equipment is at the show, she said, which means she will be able to create boat lettering during the event while advertising the company’s services.

“It’s just about getting known ... I’m introducing myself to everybody out there,” she said.

Show promoters prepared for the drop in numbers last year by introducing the affordability pavilion.

The pavilion, which is back this year, showcases boats for those with less disposable income.

Thompson said MarineMax has some boats in the pavilion that can be financed for less than $200 a month. The company is offering everything from 13- to 50-foot-boats during the show, he said.

Whether people can afford $200 a month or $2,000 a month, Thompson said there’s something for everyone.

“We have great expectations,” he said. “The economy seems to have stabilized somewhat. It hasn’t gone into further decline, and people’s passion for recreation and boating never goes down.”