The following is a transcript of a speech delivered by U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., to the House of Representatives paying tribute to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) former vice president and chief marketing officer Gary LaBella. Donnelly, whose district encompasses part of RV industry hub Elkhart County, worked closely with LaBella on several important industry issues over the years.
Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to an outstanding American citizen who has made significant contributions to northern Indiana’s economy through his work on behalf of the recreational vehicle industry, Gary LaBella.
For more than three decades, Mr. LaBella was instrumental in enhancing the recreational vehicle industry’s image, contributing to the RVIA and the industry’s success. The efforts he led in the marketing of RVs has helped unify this industry and transformed the way consumers think about RVs in this country, now and for the future.
Known for his creativity, Mr. LaBella launched an aggressive industry-wide initiative gaining acclaim throughout the travel and recreation communities. Under his direction, RVIA and industry partners launched the Go RVing national advertising program in the mid 1990s, which is often referred to as one of the most successful programs in the industry’s history.
In 2010, Mr. LaBella organized a celebration for the RV Centennial, culminating with a widely attended June party on the grounds of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind. Elkhart is often referred to as the heart of the RV community and the RV Centennial Celebration focused on saluting the workers who made the industry great.
RV Business, an industry trade journal, saluted Mr. LaBella in 2010 as one of the industry’s 100 most influential executives of all time. Mr. LaBella received a similar honor in 2005, the year he was inducted into the RV Hall of Fame.
At a celebration of his career on December 1, 2010, he noted there were “two overriding emotions—pride in what we all accomplished together to elevate this industry’s image, and happiness that I leave RVIA with only friends.” Today I rise on behalf of the citizens of Indiana’s Second District, to salute his character, his personal achievements and his contributions to the RV industry.