Boating Industry

October 2016

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26 | Boating Industry | October 2016 IN JANUARY, Safe Harbor Marinas made its offi cial debut at the International Marina and Boatyard Con- ference in Fort Lauderdale, introducing the company as the nation's largest owner and operator of marinas. Since then, the company hasn't slowed down, con- tinuing to add to its portfolio, which (as of August) con- sists of 36 marinas all across the United States. CEO Marshall Funk has been in the marina busi- ness for 35 years, ever since he acquired a small, 50-slip marina near Dallas, working with various partners. Now, with the backing of American Infrastructure MLP Funds, Funk and his manage- ment team have big plans to re- shape the marina market. Why now? That partnership with American Infrastructure was the key to being able to undertake the Safe Harbor acquisition plan. "The problem has always been the ability to attract capital because marinas are such a little business," Funk said. "It's been very diffi cult to raise the cash to do it on a large scale." Safe Harbor is very conservative in its leverage, Funk added, only borrowing 50 percent, which has made it possible to attract "very good fi nancing." "We're of large enough scale now that people want to listen to us and see where we're going," he said. For current marina owners, Safe Harbor looks to make the process attractive as well, allowing owners to plan their exit strategy. "On the seller side, it's a good time to sell right now," Funk said. "We have an attractive portion of our partnership that allows someone to leave part of their equity in and watch their asset appreciate along with our assets going up." Safe Harbor plans to continue investing and acquiring more properties, offering growth potential for its partners as values go up. "Our ultimate play on this, whether it's two years, or whenever the market's right, is to make this a public exit," he said. "It's a very good time for people to feel like they can roll their property into this group and have a decent chance of protecting their investment." Funk believes that the aggregation of marinas across the country will give Safe Harbor the ability to take advantage of the economies of scale, offering services across the com- pany. From insurance to marketing to administration and software there will be many benefi ts to the individual locations. "We can get a large enough scale … that we can do things that we haven't been able to do in the industry before," he said. Safe Harbor will also be able to offer consumers the advantages of being in a larger group, with discounts across the country if they are members at a Safe Harbor marina. For example savings on gas, boat rentals and other services would be just one benefi t. "To the consumer there will be advantages of being in a larger group … of being able to use your boat around the country," Funk said. "Some do, most don't, but nevertheless it's nice to have that opportunity." More to come Safe Harbor will continue to grow, but not without careful planning. "An incredible amount of energy" goes into the management pro- cess to be sure Safe Harbor doesn't grow too quickly, Funk said. The company is adding new software, and focusing on making sure it has good people and good controls in place, including several indus- try veterans in regional manager roles. As for acquisition targets, Safe Harbor is looking for operations with substantial income potential. "We like places that have a lot of slips or a lot of dry storage" to drive more passive revenue," Funk said. Properties with larger slips are also attractive because there is constant demand for slips for larger boats in the marketplace. While the company has thus far purchased more coastal marinas than inland, Safe Harbor is open to expansion to other areas as long as it makes sense from an organizational standpoint. "If it's not going to be an area in which we have some geographic presence, there needs to be a reason we think we can not only buy the marina, but we can buy three or four more over the course of two or three years," Funk said. "We have to have some form of concentration" in order to effectively manage the operations and host social events across the various properties. MOVER & SHAKER FINALIST MARSHALL FUNK CEO SAFE HARBOR MARINAS, DALLAS "WE CAN GET A LARGE ENOUGH SCALE … THAT WE CAN DO THINGS THAT WE HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO DO IN THE INDUSTRY BEFORE." 36 » MARINAS ACQUIRED BY SAFE HARBOR IN THE LAST YEAR

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