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The drive to continuously grow and improve is at the heart of the MRAA, our members and our staff. That’s why we’re launching this blog: to share what we’re learning in our work and in our lives with you – and in hopes you’ll share what you’re learning too.


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Dealer to Dealer: March 2019

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, March 26, 2019

How has boat show season impacted your outlook for the prime selling season and remainder of the year ahead?

I found the show season to be good, but not stellar. The major price increase due to tariffs in Canada has caused sticker shock to potential boat buyers. High end product is selling, whereas mid-range product is struggling. Also, we are finding it hard to create a sense of urgency. - Robert Rule, Maple City Marine

The boat selling season is starting off RED HOT in Vermont! - Mark Saba, Saba Marine, LLC.

Boat show season told me, although we are okay now, the season ahead will be shaky, retail-wise. The boat tarriffs, currency and a slowing global economy are definitely having a negative impact on the the consumer and sales opportunities. - Andy Blenkarn, Desmasdon’s Boat Works

We had a good start considering the weather has been terrible, however, I am seeing head winds building from interest rates, price increases and the up coming election year.  It think it will slow significantly as we enter the fall season. - John Ladner, Breath’s Boats & Motors

Tags:  best practices  boat show  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

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It's Time To Starting Preparing For Your New Hires

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, March 13, 2019

If you are north of the Mason Dixon, like the MRAA headquarters, it is hard to imagine a day that the sun is shining and you can be outdoors with out navigating piles (and piles) of snow. But, as it does each year, winter leaves and springtime starts.

For many of you, springtime is hectic. You start prepping for boating season by following up with boat show leads, prepping boats, AND hiring new teams members. All at the same time.

Did you know that MRAA membership includes access to the MRAA Career Center that holds resources to help simplify the hiring process? Check out the following links as you prepare to grow you team.

  1. Marine Job Database. Use this database to find qualified job seekers or upload your job posting for professionals in the marine industry to view.

  2. Job Descriptions. Nearly 50 job descriptions for common positions around the typical dealership are available for MRAA members. Use these temples as they are or use the documents to help craft your own job description.

  3. Employee Handbook. Download the MRAA Employee Handbook sample to offer guidance to your current staff and new hires.

  4. General HR Resources. MRAA designed to help you work through the processes associated with human resources administration within your dealership, such as interviewing, hiring, and on-boarding.

For more information on MRAA membership or the benefits listed above, contact MRAA Member Development Manager, Nikki Duffney.

Tags:  career center  employee handbook  hiring  HR resources  job descriptions  jobs  prepping boats  springtime 

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50 Reasons to Attend Dealer Week by our 100th Registrant

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bob Bense, of Superior Boat Repair & Sales, was the 100th individual to register for Dealer Week! With the help of his wife, Kathy, the couple compiled a list of 50 reasons why they continue to support the MRAA and, now, Dealer Week.

We signed up for the Dealer Week because the MRAA team continues to deliver information and resources that help us to prosper and grow as a marine dealer. Here are half of one-hundred reasons why we love attending and how participating has been a really good thing for us as the owners of Superior Boat Repair & Sales, Inc.

    1. We get excited about the coming year and helping our boating community.

    2. We share quality time with other dealers.

    3. We enjoy time spent meeting dealers from all over the country and the world.

    4. We get ideas, fresh ideas, to implement at the dealership.

    5. We find solutions to problems we are facing at the office.

    6. We really enjoy being with so many other people that do the same thing for a living.

    7. We get to hear really entertaining and thought provoking speakers that inspire us to be better and do better.

    8. We are taught by marine industry experts in the educational work-shops.

    9. We get to get away and get a break from the dealership, which helps us to relax and unwind with our  staff.

    10. We bond with our employees and get quality time to talk to each other.

    11. We have the opportunity to win scholarships, which our dealership has won.

    12. We keep up with up marine industry news.

    13. We are able to meet with new vendors and learn about new products that we can purchase to help our business grow, like software.

    14. We rekindle relationships with old friends that work at the boat manufacturers’, some that are decades old.

    15. We get a chance to stop and think about our dealership, what we have done right and where we can improve.

    16. We learn from dealers that have been doing this so much longer than we have.

    17. We learn how to ride the wave through the good years and how to hold on to what we have created, during the bad.

    18. We pick up great ideas from new dealers that we meet over lunch.

    19. We get to see sunny Florida and get some vitamin D.

    20. We break out and each person from our dealership goes to a different workshops so we come back with so much more useful information to help us prosper.

    21. We make new contacts and network.

    22. We get the opportunity to enjoy our success with others.

    23. We get to hear what  the financial experts at the lending institutions predict the economy will do in the coming year(s), which helps us when ordering our inventory for the coming year.

    24. We get to visit the manufacturers for the boat lines that we carry, when we’re there in Florida.

    25. We get the opportunity to visit with our dear friends in our Parker Twenty Group.

    26. We get the privilege of meeting other husband and wife dealership owners and we share what makes it all work.                                                                            

    27. We can win prizes.

    28. We are given delicious food, like key lime pie, which we don’t get in California.

    29. We get SO excited again about owning a dealership and providing families with the joy that boat ownership brings.

    30. We learn tricks of the trade, like how to bring up and train your own mechanics, since there is such a huge shortage of technicians across the country.

    31. We get to wear shorts during the winter.

    32. We build up our sales-team and motivate them to sell more.

    33. We learn strategies on how to sell our business to others and market our business wisely.

    34. We can ask so many questions, questions regarding all aspects of owning a dealership.

    35. We hear how other dealers found solutions and what those solutions were, regarding the same problems we are facing at our boat dealership.

    36. We are reminded of important practices we must have in place to have a secure and healthy dealership... like having at least two lines of credit to get through the downturns.

    37. We learn vital lessons on how to make more money and get higher margins.

    38. We hear how to sell smarter and to close faster.

    39. We were able to get expert advice and helpful guidance when we were a brand new dealer, especially during a severe drought and terrible recession.

    40. We learned so much, all the while earning the respect of other dealers, because after implementing what we learned we grew by leaps and bounds.

    41. We are reminded that we sell JOY, memories and a great quality of life.

    42. We hear about other dealers that have gone out of business, why they closed shop and how we can learn from their mistakes, if we can.

    43. We are able to take a much needed cruise vacation, before we get slammed in the busy months, by taking a short drive to the Atlantic and hoping on one of many ships.

    44. We are challenged to think and grow in our roles at the dealership, through the many workshops.

    45. We are given the opportunity to purchase things, like insurance and flooring, at a much better rate, which saves us money and helps us stay in business.

    46. We really enjoy the whole experience.

    47. We are proud to be a dealer, when we realize there aren’t very many people selling boats across the country.

    48. We hear in the seminars what we are doing right and that is uplifting.

    49. We exchange contact information with other dealers selling the same lines, which helps us to be able to call them in the future, if we can ever sell each other inventory.

    50. We really, truly see the value of all that encompasses attending the Dealer Week and what we take away from that experience.

Take advantage of the lowest prices of the year by registering for Dealer Week before March 31, 2019.

Tags:  dealer development  dealer education  dealer focused  Education  experience  supporters  testimonials 

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Good Thing I Knew What I Wanted...

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Good thing I knew what I wanted…

Because the sales person I worked with to get my new compact SUV didn’t know much about the product or the sales process. Here is my experience when buying a new vehicle recently. Be warned, this could be happening at your dealership.

In the end of last year, I was in an icy head-on collision that totaled my little coup that I had been driving for about a decade. It was sad for the car and luckily, no one had major injury. So, as I moved into the space of replacing my lost little car with something bigger and safer; I had my father and partner test drive about a half dozen vehicles for me (different story, different time... I can only drive with adaptive hand controls) to get it down to the final two for me to go test ride in. Here is how the day of purchase unfolded.

I went to the first dealership and was greeted by a new sales person. He was very courteous, asked the right questions, sat us down and talked through the options available. I only had one question that he had to walk away to consult his manager about and it was brief. On the test drive, he asked us questions to learn about who we were – which made the experience of riding in a car with a stranger better. After the drive, I knew that I probably wouldn’t buy that model as it didn’t fit what I wanted. Off to the next dealership!

As I walked into the next dealership, I was welcomed by a greeter (strong start) and she paired me up with an available sales person. Before we had been introduced, I already knew I would likely be buying the car from that dealership, that day.

Next, as we sat down with the available sales person, he opened the conversation to let us know he had only been working there for about 3 weeks and was brand new to car sales (not building my confidence). As we started to look at the available on-site inventory for test drives, he mentioned models that weren’t what we were asking for and struggled with navigating their product software system and had to go ask for help. It felt as if most every question I asked, he has to go ask someone else for the answer. About an hour into being at the dealership, we got into a vehicle. I knew immediately that was the one I wanted to get as it fit my needs well, yet he was still trying to tell me about the differences between the model we were in and the top trim package. He was trying to sell me on features and benefits like he was reading it from his phone in the back seat. It was an un-natural conversation and shut me down even more. When we got back to his desk, and we were talking colors and interior, he was showing me the wrong color pallet for the model year I wanted, frustrating. When we were about to start on the paperwork part – the closing – he was pulled away to help other sales people move cars around. What!?! Was this a part of hazing the newbie, and he didn’t have the ability or confidence to say no. So, we waited.

After we met with the business manager to finalize the financials and warranty, we were told to wait next to my new SUV that was washed and ready for delivery. Where was my sales person? Where was anyone? I had been at the dealership for nearly 5 hours; I was tired, hungry and ready to be anywhere else at that time – and I was yet again waiting for my sales person.

Still waiting on that follow up call… or not. I had been loyal for service to this dealership for the last decade with my coup, and decided that I wouldn’t be bringing my new vehicle back for service as this experience changed my relationships with that dealership location. While I am still brand loyal, this was an example of undertraining of new staff cost the dealership a decade long loyal customer from any future service revenue.

How long are you training your staff before releasing them out to contact with your customers? And what is the real cost of under-training your new staff – or not having regular trainings to remind your team about best practices that make your dealership better than the rest? Something to think about the next time someone feels “too busy” to train a new or junior staff person.

Tags:  customer experience  customer service  Sales  sales process  under trained 

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Dealer to Dealer: February 2019

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Did you do something different at your boat show(s) this year? How did it turn out?

We created a different layout from our normal. We brought more pleasure boats and less fishing boats. We also put are higher dollar boats out front and center. Not toward the back. This seem to get more traction than normal on these boats.  What I would change is moving are center console out of the corner and putting that more out front.  All an all it was a great show! - Leo Lach, TMBC- Grandville

We expanded our footprint throughout the shows, which allowed us to invite more brands to participate and gave us a better visual presentation by spreading boat models further apart.  Also, we took advantage of in-water boat demo areas, partnering with engine brands, to take customers out on boat rides.  Lastly, we excluded under-performing brands so we could focus staff resources where it mattered most – at the booths where customers wanted to be.  As a result, this year’s sales, from the same shows as last year, are up 30% to 45%. - Frank Ferraro, Nautical Ventures

We added several kiosks with iPads which were locked to the respective boat manufacture “build a boat” pages- was received quite well with both buyers and their children! - David deAndrade, White Lake Marine

We did things much differently this year than previous years. We started out by purchasing a lot more booth space which allowed us to display more inventory. It also allowed for more space for customers to maneuver and get a better look at our boats. We received many compliments not only from prospects and buyers, but from all our manufacturers who worked our booth with us.

We also had a lot of the inventory built with more boat options as well as a larger selection of different engine brands. We allowed our normal boat show discount percentages. We normally give each boat buyer a free gift which has generally been a Yeti Tundra ice chest, but this year we allowed the buyers to choose from 3 free gifts, one of which was a free year of maintenance, hoping that will allow them to experience our awesome service and parts department and hopefully continue to come back. 95% of buyers chose the maintenance.

We brought in our parts manager and service coordinator to work the floor with us because many times we have customers who only have parts and/or service questions and our salesman get tied up with them. This was extremely successful because they were instrumental in getting 3 customers to trade their units in for new units – MAJOR WIN! - Christi Romero, The Sportsman

Tags:  best practices  boat show  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

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Busting a Few Myths

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, January 22, 2019
In my last blog, I wrote about the premise of Brad Staat’s book, Never Stop Learning. Because the knowledge we need to successfully run our businesses keeps changing, he argues, we need to keep learning. We now operate in a learning economy, not a knowledge economy.

If we need to be continuously learning, then it’s critical for us to know how we and our teams can best learn. As it turns out, much of what we think we know about education is wrong. Here are a few of the many myths about learning:

LEARNING IS AN EVENT. We often schedule education as if learning is an event – a conference, a workshop or a training day – with a beginning and end, something we can check off the list. The research suggests that’s not true. Learning is a four-step process that begins when you’re exposed to new information, like when a speaker gives an educational presentation or when you watch an online course. But don’t stop there. We need to consistently re-expose ourselves and the people we’re training to the new information after we first hear it. When we only take in the information once, chances are it will quickly fade out of our short-term memory before we store it as knowledge and before we have the opportunity to apply it. Our brain is like a video tape that quickly gets recorded over if we don’t proactively work to hold onto new information through repetition.

LEARNING DOESN’T DRIVE RESULTS. The most common reason for this myth is simply that what most people call learning is only the first step of the learning process: Being exposed to new information. If you skip the other three steps, you’ll never truly learn something new, apply it to your business or experience the results.

LEARNING BELONGS IN THE CLASSROOM (NOT THE DEALERSHIP). Research shows us that people typically forget 90 percent of the information they are exposed to in a class within 30 days. The majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class. That’s because learning is a four-step process, and the classroom is just step one. And of course, the classroom is not the only place you can turn for new information. There are digital publications, books, podcasts, workshops, online courses, conferences and more. The real work involved in learning – and the real rewards – come when you take the information you’ve been exposed to, hold it up against what you’ve experienced in the past (step two), consider how it might apply to your day-to-day responsibilities in the future (step three), and then experiment with it in the dealership (step four).

NO TALKING IN SCHOOL. The truth is the exact opposite. When we discuss what we’re learning with others, not only do we create repetition, which helps us hold onto that information in our memory, but we have the opportunity to reflect out loud on how it applies to what we already know and have experienced, and how we might apply it moving forward. Those are critical steps in the learning process. BONUS: When you as a leader in your dealership talk about what you’re learning and how you might use it to improve and grow, you inspire and encourage others to consider their own learning opportunities.

CRAM FOR THE TEST. Cramming works great if it’s only important that you remember something for a short period of time. But if you want to hold onto it for the long haul (and maybe even USE what you’re learning at work), space out your repetition. Schedule a once a week practice of a key new process or strategy. Research shows that such repetition is needed even years after you’ve supposedly learned something “for good.” Even your most experienced team members can gain huge benefit from refresher classes.

TAKE YOUR SEAT, OPEN YOUR EARS. In reality, the more senses involved in your dealership education – such as seeing, hearing and touching – the more likely you and your team will remember it when it comes time to use what you’re learning. That’s why an audio recording is good, but a video is even better. And a course that involves not just video, but also activities, tests and homework is even more effective. Research suggests that if information is presented orally, people remember about 10 percent 72 hours after exposure. Add a picture and that percentage goes up to 65 percent. As a human, our vision is our most powerful sense. The more your training is a multi-sensory experience, the higher the chances you will retain it.

MRAA takes all of this to heart. We work with the experts to design in-person and online education, resources and tools available to you and your employees all year long. They are designed specifically to achieve REAL learning and drive REAL results. And we’re here whenever you need us to guide you along the way.

Tags:  continuous improvement  cram  discussions  event  learning economy  myths  real-life application 

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Marine Retailing in a Learning Economy

Posted By Liz Walz, Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2019

Educate. [ej-oo-keyt] verb. to provide with information in order to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction for a particular calling or practice in a particular area for a particular purpose.

When we were kids, we thought we had it figured out. First, you go to school to get educated. Then, you graduate and put what you learned to work in the real world – in our case, the boat dealership.

But we were wrong. The first thing you learn when you start a new job is how much you DON’T know. Yeah, with experience, you learn how to be more successful at your job. But just when you start getting good, you either get promoted into a new job where it all starts over again or you begin to realize that what it means to be good at most of the jobs we do is changing.

That’s why, as leaders in the boat business, education for ourselves and our team needs to be top of mind. Education doesn’t mean the same thing to us now as it did in school. It’s not about learning for the sake of learning. It’s quite simply our path to sustaining, improving and growing our dealerships. And if anything, it has become MORE important since our school days, not less.

The idea that what we think we know about our work is constantly changing is the focus of a book that just came out, called “Never Stop Learning.” In it, author Brad Staats makes the argument that we no longer live in a “knowledge economy” – where growth is dependent on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of the information available.

We actually live in a “learning economy,” where what drives success in our businesses is constantly changing. Knowledge and information are not fixed anymore. What you learned a year ago or even a month ago may not apply today. Education is no longer an event – it’s a continuous process.

Think about your dealership, for example. There is new information being generated every day – about your prospects, your customers, your employees, your revenue, your profitability, your assets, your efficiency, your marketing and sales. What in the dealership DOESN’T generate data these days? Your growth is dependent on your ability to always be learning about what the latest information – from inside and outside your dealership – means for your success. And adapting to what’s changing.

To help you create the culture of continuous improvement that a learning economy requires, the Marine Retailers Association prepared a Guide to Dealership Improvement, available to members in the Resource Center at

In addition, we’re constantly producing new educational courses, videos, digital publications, blogs, research reports and tools to support you and your team. Want to learn more? Check out our website at or give our team a call at 763-315-8043.

Tags:  boat dealership  continuous improvement  continuous process  culture  dealer development  develop  educate  Guide to Dealership Improvement  resources 

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Dealer to Dealer: January

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, January 8, 2019

What did your dealership accomplish in 2018 that you're most proud of?

In light of a record sales year, receiving several top industry awards, and signing on a variety of marquis brands, I think I’m most proud of the strides we made with our personnel. We’re now over 100 employees strong and in 2018 we implemented new policies, procedures and benefit programs to insure a harmonious work place with a work environment that offers an atmosphere of growth, stability and teamwork. - Roger Moore, Nautical Ventures

The 2018 year was a huge challenge for our team. We ended 2017 by losing two key long term managers and our top sales guy. During our busy spring, our service writer quit without warning leaving us with two technicians instead of our typical three.  At the end of 2018, our sales office administrator left with our gel coat technician soon to follow. Needless to say, we were short handed with the workforce being more difficult to obtain the correct team members. We got through the year though and ended up very successful with serving our customers with the high standards we hold ourselves to and even being profitable. I am very proud of our other employees that took the initiative to step up and get the tasks done to provide our customers with stellar service and products. - Marc Shallcross, Reed’s Marine

Staff Development.  We filled open positions with great people and provided resources to help them grow in their roles. - Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center

The biggest achievement/accomplishment we made in the last year was to hire a General Manager for the store and to start a training process for him. During this last 7 months, a milestone was taking him to his first 20 group meeting this fall. Additionally, in terms of curiosity, we added a ninja course and redemption games to our showroom for the winter. It is based primarily on a shoppertainment retail business model. We had over 500 paying ninjas over the Christmas break. - Adrian Spiker, Deep Creek Marina

Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

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Engaging Conversation

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Friday, November 30, 2018
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2019

Engage. [en-geyj] verb. to come together and occupy the attention of toward a joint effort task or idea.

A dealer friend found himself at odds with an employee today. His senior technician wants to be paid more — a common issue all the time, right? … but particularly in today’s growing economy and shrinking number of quality technicians.

Ultimately, the dealer wants to do right by his tech – he’s a good guy and he’s reliable. But behind the scenes, he’s also the least efficient in the shop, despite the “senior” designation — and by a long shot. He’s billing less than 50 percent of his clocked hours but seeks the pay of someone far more effective in their role.

As it shakes out, the guy who keeps the shop running while the boss isn’t around wouldn’t have a place to work if it weren’t for his more-efficient yet lower-paid brethren.

In many ways, there’s much to be gained when we can engage our employees in a conversation about the business. When we can sit down and outline the equation of revenue earned to expenses paid – personnel and otherwise. And that’s what this boiled down to: “I can pay you more, but let’s talk about and improve upon the profitability equation of the work you do for us.”

Far too often, however, we treat the idea of engaging like it’s a one-directional conversation. You come to work. You engage in your responsibilities. Everyone’s happy.

By definition, though, “to engage” means to come together and occupy the attention of toward a joint effort, task, or idea. It’s not a one-way street. We need to come together toward a joint effort, task or idea with our employees in order to be efficient and effective, both as individuals and as a business.

I often think of it the same way as our role here at MRAA. We want to engage you in a conversation about the business of boating and how we can aid in your growth and success. It’s a rewarding moment when we get to talk to our members — even our non-members, in this case — about these topics, and it’s even more rewarding when we see them engage in the tools, resources and educational opportunities we have to offer them.

Because ultimately, we need to come together toward a joint effort, task or idea in order to grow our industry. And we can only do that by opening up engaging dialog.

We look forward to doing just that next week at the MDCE. Hope to see you there.

Tags:  conversation  dealer focused  engage  engaging conversations  technician 

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Member Spotlight: Patrick Green

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019

As a young professional in the boating world, he understands the importance of continuous improvement. Since his first job, Patrick Green has grown as a professional at some of the industry's most reputable organizations.  Read on to learn more about how Patrick navigates the workplace in order to create a positive work culture.

Q: How did you get started in the boating industry?

Green: I got my first job working summers at Gordy’s in Fontana, Wisconsin on Geneva Lake. I actually was able to save enough money working my first two summers to buy a car on my own before I turned 16.

Q: Being a young professional, you fall into the category of Millennial. How do you navigate the workplace, as a leader, with that “label”?

Green: Reading the room. One of the biggest lessons I hope to carry with me 20 years from now, is understanding & learning from the generational gap. When a company's culture becomes stagnant so do its people.

Q: Tobler Marina is a Marine Industry Certified Dealership. As the Director of Certification, what benefits are you seeing within the dealership after completing and actively participating in the program?

Green: We’ve gotten in the habit of including the Certification Curriculum in our weekly manager meetings, and then trickling it down through weekly dept meetings. This has enabled us to reflect, but also allowed us to push forward with simplifying process. The accountability tools have also helped us understand why the process is so important. Employee feedback is key.

Q: As a professional who puts an emphasis on growing and continuously learning, what would you say was the most important thing you learned in the business this year?

Green: It’s important to have values in an organization that match personal values. This also relates to employees and customers - and the relationships that coincide.

Q: We always end our Member Spotlight interview with this… What are 5 things that people may not know about you?

  1. I was a zipline guide in Alaska for one summer after college.

  2. I went snowboarding every month for 23 months in a row.

  3. I love to rock climb.

  4. I studied Philosophy in college.

  5. I aspire to do the Great Loop.

    Tags:  business advice  fun facts  marine industry  member spotlight  MRAA member 

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