RV Caucus & RVIA Host Capitol Hill Campfires
When the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) leadership started to work with the members of the fledgling Congressional RV Caucus to create a formal “kickoff” event, they decided to go a little different route than the normal cocktail party with speakers at a podium.
Instead, RVIA set up daytime tours of two RVs on Capitol Hill and an evening event featuring four campfires around the room to promote one-on-one interaction with industry leaders, said Dianne Farrell, vice president of government affairs for RIVA.
The Congressional RV Caucus, created last June by Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., and Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., includes Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind.
Ross and Walorski asked RVIA to host the reception as they attempt to grow the caucus, Farrell said.
And the results exceeded Farrell’s expectations. Among the roughly 200 attendees, “we had probably 10 to 15 members of Congress, plus chiefs of staff and legislative assistants,” said Farrell, who, in turn, said RVIA’s staff and leadership was “energized” by the level of interest that members of Congress and their lead staffers had in the industry.
“We had a very good event with an excellent turnout. We were shoulder-to-shoulder in a room. We tried to have a very casual event with very little podium speaking. We set up ‘campfires’ around the room,” Farrell said, noting campfires represented RV manufacturers, RV dealers, campgrounds and the outdoor recreation industry. “We had two industry leaders at each campfire, and attendees had a chance to talk with each of the leaders at each (electric) fire.”
Doug Gaeddert, general manager of Forest River Inc. and RVIA chairman, joined his RVIA successor Derald Bontrager, president and CEO of Jayco Inc. as the experts at the RV manufacturers’ campfire.
Ultimately, Gaeddert told the group, “the Caucus will help educate members of Congress on the value of the RV lifestyle and highlight the RV lifestyle and the economic benefits the industry provides across the country and find common ground on matters of concern to the industry.”
Phil Ingrassia, president of the RV Dealers Association (RVDA) was joined by Brett Richardson, RVDA’s director of regulatory and legal affairs, and Lance Wilson, executive director of the Florida RV Trade Association at the RV dealers’ campfire.
Jeff Sims, legislative director of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) was joined at the campground campfire by Deb Carter, operator of Buttonwood Beach RV Resort in Maryland.
The industry’s campfire introduced attendees to Derek Crandall of the American Recreation Coalition and Christy Goldfuss, deputy director of the U.S. National Park Service.
“I think that by all accounts, by the number of people and by the surprising number of members of Congress that were there and signed up on the spot to joint the RV Caucus that it was a resounding success,” added B.J. Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates and chairman of the newly named Grassroots Sub-Committee of RVIA’s Public & Legislative Affairs Committee. “I personally signed up at least three members of Congress and have started to work with Senator Donnelly’s office to start up the Caucus on the Senate side.”