by Cynthia Goss
U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Peter Van Lancker of Hunt Yachts were each honored with the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) Anchor Award at the organization’s fourth Annual Industry Partnership Breakfast, held September 14 in Newport. The Anchor Awards are presented annually to individuals who have had a significant impact on the state’s marine trades.
Peter Van Lancker, Paul Harden, Wendy Mackie, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Andy Tyska at the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association Industry Partnership Breakfast at the Newport Yacht Club, Newport RI.
Senator Whitehouse founded the Senate Oceans Caucus to promote creative, bipartisan policy solutions that protect the ocean, its coastline, and the people and economies that rely on them. He has been a strong advocate for the marine industry in Rhode Island as one who understands the impact recreational boating has on the state’s economy and its tourism industry. He has also publically recognized the innovative contributions from the state’s composite manufacturing sector, an expertise that has grown from Rhode Island companies’ deep experience in high-tech boat building.
'Sheldon understands that in the Ocean State, our economy and our way of life depend on the health of our environment—including our greatest natural resource, the ocean,' said RIMTA President Andy Tyska, when presenting the award. 'The senator is actively engaged in the issues that affect recreational boating and maintains an open-door policy when a RIMTA representative asks for his ear.'
Senator Whitehouse graciously accepted the award and cited a recent study* that tallies the economic impact of the salt-water recreation boating industry in the Northeast at $3.5 billion in 2012 and supporting the equivalent of 27,000 year-round jobs. With its high concentration of the marine trades, Rhode Island is a key contributor to that industry sector.
'We have an immensely powerful and capable industry… and I am honored to accept this,' said Senator Whitehouse. But he told meeting attendees that there was still work to be done to further strengthen the state’s marine trades. 'I will accept [this award] and put it on my wall as a reminder and a down payment for the work to be done.'
As president of Hunt Yachts in Portsmouth, Peter Van Lancker has demonstrated the great advantages of doing marine business in the Ocean State by both building a successful business and being a vocal champion of the state’s marine-industry sector. After working at several leading boat builders and manufacturers, Van Lancker joined Hunt Yachts in 2000; in 2006, he moved the company to Rhode Island—citing advantages such as the state’s no-sales-tax policy on boats and boating services, and the continuum of marine manufacturers and services Hunt has partnered with to produce its product line.
In accepting his Anchor Award, Van Lancker attributed much of what Hunt has achieved to the company’s location and his ability to tap the talents of maritime craftsmen and entrepreneurs who operate in the Ocean State. 'Rhode Island and Hunt are a winning combination,' said Van Lancker.
He also sang the praises of the many marine-trades entrepreneurs he has met since moving Hunt Yachts to Rhode Island: 'This award should really go to those entrepreneurs who are slugging it out every day … They are the champions the state needs and individuals who have the courage to go forward in an industry that has its risks and its challenges.'
The featured guest speaker at the RIMTA Annual Industry Partnership Breakfast was Discover Newport President and CEO Evan Smith, who spoke about the critical connection between the state’s marine trades and the state’s $2.3 billion tourism industry. RIMTA hosted its meeting during the weekend of the Newport International Boat Show. Sponsors of the event included the Governor’s Workforce Board RI, Newport Yacht Club, and the U.S. Superyacht Association.