Boats bring in big bucks in region

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Idaho's economy is bolstered by its ample outdoor pursuits, powerboating being among the foremost money-makers.

According to a Boise State University study, the Gem State generated $335.3 million in powerboating-related products and services in 2015 alone.

Unsurprisingly, lake-heavy Kootenai County had the most revenue of Idaho counties after raking in $89.8 million.

Hagadone Marine general manager Craig Brosenne, whose business took in more than $12 million in boat sales alone that year, pointed to an improved local economy and a geographical edge.

"There's many lakes in this region, so we have a bit of an advantage over the other counties and have out-of-state buyers coming here," Brosenne said Wednesday. "The local economy has also been strong."

Ada County checked in at No. 2 with $60.3 million in sales and Bonner County was No. 3 at $39.2 million.

BSU's extensive 33-page report noted Bonner County had 6,414 boat registrants in 2015 and Kootenai County had 14,454, which was second to Ada County with 14,716. A sizable portion of the boaters on North Idaho waters are registered out of state.

Kootenai and Bonner County lead the state in the number of day trips, finishing first and second in the study with 49,653 and 33,626 respectively. Boundary County had an estimated 3,192 trips. More than 50 percent of the day trips in both Bonner and Kootenai counties were taken by non-residents.

For overnight trips, Kootenai ranked third, with Valley and Bonner counties accounting for more overnight trips, according to the study. Statewide, the average length of stay for an overnight trip was 2.86 nights, with Bonner County seeing 7,123 trips for an average of 2.96 nights and Kootenai County seeing 5,821 trips for an average of 2.73 nights. Boundary County saw 240 overnight trips with an average stay of 2.17 nights.

Non-residents spent an estimated $15,180,519 during day trips in Kootenai County in 2015, $9,143,772 in Bonner County, and $190,478 in Boundary County. That comparison, Kootenai County residents spent $11,838,716, Bonner County residents $5,990,122, and Boundary County residents $520,685.

For overnight trips, non-residents spent $8,984,594 compared to $733,933 by residents in Bonner County; in Kootenai County, non-residents spent $2,681,981 compared to $3,458,331; and in Boundary County, non-residents spent $152,272 compared to $174,779 by residents.

“It’s clear that recreation is big business in Idaho,” said David Langhorst, Idaho Department of Parks and Rec director. “Understanding the economic impacts assists our agency in making the best management decisions possible when it comes to providing and maintaining recreation access in our state.

The $335.5 million in 2015 increased state employment by 3,088 jobs, labor income by $88 million, and the output of locally produced goods and services by $227.9 million.  The study attributes 592.3 direct employment and 776.9 total employment to powerboating activities in Kootenai County, 417.2 direct employment and 524.8 total employment in Bonner County, and 18.2 direct employment and 21.4 total employment in Boundary County.

According to Brosenne, business didn't taper off in 2016 for Hagadone Marine. In fact, he said, revenue soared to $16 million in boat sales. With the new expansion of the Hagadone Marine facilities, he believes sales could vault to $20 million in 2017.

"We're the 800-pound gorilla in the community," Brosenne said. "And when we do well, it pushes the competition in the area to also do well."

John Sitter, owner of Specialty Recreation and Marine in Coeur d'Alene, also said 2015 and 2016 were good years for business.

"The general citizenry is on an upward swing, mentally," Sitter said, "And I think a lot of that has to do with the changes that are happening in Washington, D.C."

Information: http://bit.ly/2jgc6D

Staff writer Caroline Lobsinger contributed to this report.

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