Meet NMMA President-Elect Frank Hugelmeyer

On October 1, Frank Hugelmeyer will succeed Thom Dammrich as president of one of the industry’s most influential organization, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). This week, FTR sits down with Hugelmeyer to learn about his past, the transition to the helm of NMMA and his vision for the future.

Hugelmeyer, a veteran leader of the outdoor recreation industry, came toNMMAfrom the RV Industry Association (RVIA), where he served as president since 2015. Prior to RVIA, he was president and CEO of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) for 14 years.

In preparation for assuming the NMMA helm, Hugelmeyer is currently on a listening and learning tour with members, stakeholders and the full NMMA team. In the meantime, get to know a little bit more about him personally and professionally:
Q: A lot of us want to know whether you’re a boater?
FH: I am an avid boater and angler (both fly and sport). I spent my formative years on Long Island, New York, and every year my family would spend our entire summer at Fire Island on my parents’ 28’ Seabird (coincidentally purchased at the NY Boat Show). We would dock alongside our grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family and their range of boats which included a Chris-Craft, Pembroke, Egg Harbor, Hatteras, Robalo, and Cobia. Spending time on the water is one of my most cherished family traditions. Nearly every vacation has been spent around water. My son and I particularly enjoy boating and fishing—it’s our favorite pastime together. Each year, we go on an angling trip. This past June, we spent a full week in Islamorada chasing tarpon and bonefish inshore and mahi-mahi and tuna offshore. There’s nothing like the unique ecosystems you discover or the wildlife you see when around water.
Q: What brought you toNMMA?
FH: As a lifelong boater and angler, the opportunity to work in this industry, alongside NMMA’s exceptional members, is ultimately what brought me here. Thom and the team at NMMA also played a big role. I first met Thom a little over a decade ago when NMMA agreed to support the outdoor recreation economic study we were building at OIA. It was the first study to measure the economics of the entire outdoor recreation industry and, with that decision, NMMA played a central role in uniting not only the marine industry but the broader outdoor industry. Following that breakthrough report, Thom and I continued to work closely with ASA, Boat US, MRAA and many others on bringing the outdoor recreation industry together, which ultimately led to the creation of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. The marine industry’s leadership and involvement in unifying the outdoor recreation sector has resulted in getting our voice heard among decision makers and allowed us to have a real impact. Seeing firsthand what the marine industry has supported and been able to accomplish certainly attracted me to the role. This kind of unity approach is consistent with my own values, an important component of NMMA’s success and something I plan to continue.
Q: What about your work experience? Tell us how that prepared you for this role?
FH: I started my career in outdoor retail and worked for many years on both the retail and manufacturing side of the business before becoming president of OIA in 2000. This experience helps me relate to what a member company might be going through and how their association might be able to help. . My time at OIA gave me valuable insight into how major outdoor lifestyle and retail brands like REI, Patagonia, Columbia Sportswear and The North Face operate as an enterprise. I learned a lot about how these complex organizations approach challenges and attract customers and how an association can support those efforts. I became president of the RV Industry Association (RVIA) in 2015 and with that team worked to enhance the association’s impact and relevance. This included strengthening RVIA’s advocacy, modernizing internal systems, running successful events, and motivating consumers through the RV industry’s Go RVing campaign. I’m looking forward to leaning on my experience in my role at NMMA while learning about those things that make NMMA and this industry unique.
Q: You and Thom were in Washington, DC last week with the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). How does this work carry over into your role atNMMA? 
FH: When we consider the full spectrum of outdoor recreation, the competition is not ourselves. If we compete against other outdoor lifestyle segments, we only take our eye off the real industry threats like expanding federal deficits, declining federal funding for recreation, and the growing number of activities that draw people away from the outdoors. There is a lot of data that proves the outdoor industries all serve and share the same consumer and are interconnected. A great example of this is the success we’re seeing with the Outdoor Recreational Roundtable—when we come together, the marine industry and the other outdoor sectors, we’re in a position to address the overarching challenges that impact our shared consumers. By working together, policymakers recognize and prioritize our asks and we gain a powerful seat at a very crowded federal policy table that we would not have otherwise. This allows each association to deliver greater tangible results for their individual members. We’re stronger and more successful when we’re communicating clearly and regularly with coalition partners and working in sync toward our collective objectives. This doesn’t replace the need for industry specific advocacy efforts. Instead ORR compliments that work and allows us to provide a greater return on our members’ investment.
Q: How are you spending your time as president-elect?
FH: Making sure I integrate into the respected NMMAculture and really understand our industry and members’ needs is my primary focus. Thom, the NMMAteam, and members have created an exceptional foundation. I’ll be working to maintain the momentum they’ve created by taking the time to listen and learn from the NMMAteam, and as many members and industry stakeholders as possible about what they value and what’s keeping them up at night.
Q: What are your top priorities when you assume the helm Oct. 1?
FH:NMMAworked closely with its board to create a three-year strategic plan. The team made significant strides in year one. We’ll enter year two of the plan on Oct. 1and be laser focused on continuing to move the needle on our two top priorities: drive sales by attracting more consumers to the boating lifestyle and deliver business-friendly, offense-focused advocacy.
NMMA’s signature programs, whether it’s boat shows, certification, communication, or research, all ladder into the strategic plan and drive member value, so keeping member satisfaction high across all of our major program areas is also key. While we are doing this, it’s important to remain agile enough to manage both the expected and unexpected. If the rate of change impacting members is ever greater thanNMMA’s ability to keep pace, we risk irrelevance. So, we will keep a close eye on disruptive business forces, evolving consumer behaviors, and shifting government regulations so we can take action and ensure our members not only survive but thrive.
Q: You mentioned boat shows are a signatureNMMAprogram. Will we see you at any fall shows?
You’ll see me at our Tampa Boat Show,September 6-8, and then at our Norwalk Boat Show,September 19-22. And, October 1-3, I’ll join the industry at IBEX in Tampa. I’m excited to kick-off my first official day as president,October 1, as one of the speakers at the IBEX Industry Breakfast. Being at these marquee industry events and seeing our team, members, and exhibitors in action during my first months on the job is something I’m really looking forward to. For those who don’t know me, I’ll be easy to recognize – just look for the guy swooning over all the latest products.

Stay tuned for more communications from Hugelmeyer in the weeks and months ahead as he transitions into his role asNMMApresident.