Production began today (May 19) in a former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. towable facility in La Grande, Ore., purchased earlier this month by Ron Nash, president of Northwood Manufacturing Inc., which already was based in the northeast Oregon community.
“We will have some lines similar to what Fleetwood was doing with the Prowler, Wilderness, Terry and Backpack” Nash told RVBusiness.
The former Fleetwood factory, which Nash bought for $2.05 million, will produce yet-to-be-named towables under a new corporate umbrella.
“It will be owned by the (Northwood) corporation, but it will be a separate company with a new name,” Nash said. Units will be sold mostly in the northwest U.S. and southwestern Canada.
Nash anticipates shipping the first medium-priced units from the former Fleetwood factory by the middle of June. “We are not going to build the real low-end stuff,” said Nash, who was a Fleetwood general manager a number of years ago. “We need to build stuff with a little more integrity than that.”
One hundred production employees and a dozen managers, most of whom worked for Fleetwood before it closed its towable division in March prior to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, have been called back. “Most of them are long-term Fleetwood people who were laid off,” Nash said. “And we’ve taken some people who have worked here (at Northwood).”
Nash said he also expects that as many as 50 Fleetwood dealers will stock the new product. “We have just started setting up the dealer network,” Nash said.
The 79,000-square-foot former Fleetwood factory complex includes a 72,000-square-foot main plant, a 7,000-square-foot chassis shop and an open-air warehouse. “It is a major move on our part, not only from an expense standpoint but from an opportunity standpoint,” Nash said.
The new company will set up extended warranties for Fleetwood products and for the foreseeable future will keep parts on hand for Fleetwood towables.
Northwood, with about 170 employees and a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in La Grande, builds Nash and Arctic Fox travel trailers and fifth-wheels, Arctic Fox truck campers and Desert Fox sport utility RVs.
In May 2008, Northwood closed a manufacturing facility In Westchester, Va., that previously belonged to Fleetwood, citing the company’s inability to build its own frames as it does in Oregon.
“Our business has been difficult,” Nash said. “But we’ve maintained some of our best dealers and they are coming back to sales levels that are similar to what they were before the recession. Durability seems to have become a main issue, and that always has been our deal.”