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Southwest Fla. Readying for Snowbird Assault

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August 6, 2014 by   Leave a Comment

Floridians will soon start to see them in abundance on highways: Those lumbering vacation homes on wheels headed south for the winter. Inside these recreation vehicles: full kitchens and baths, living rooms, a flat-screen TV or two or three and even a pop-out back porch.

As reported by Florida Weekly, most will have an obligatory car in tow and securely fastened bicycles, kayaks and paddleboards providing a clue to how their occupants will likely spend their time in Southwest Florida.

Since taking a recessionary dip in 2007, RV sales have rebounded as more travelers return to life on the open road.

“Our industry is a leading indicator of the economy,” says Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, which represents manufacturers and suppliers. “When RV shipments go down it’s usually ahead of a recession. It’s been the case for the last few recessions.”

Before the current economic downturn, the industry recorded five consecutive years of growth, reaching 390,500 units in 2006 — the most since 1981. Shipments starting picking up in late 2009 and have grown every year since, says Mr. Broom, noting 2014 sales are on track to exceed the RVIA’s projected 349,400. Manufacturing is up to $15 million from a $10 billion low.

Local RV dealers and parks are also reporting increased sales and occupancy.

“We’re doing very well,” says Timothy Lowry, marketing manager for North Trail RV Center in Fort Myers. “Our business is steaming right along. The whole industry is going through a growth pattern.”

So much so, that North Trail is in the process of upsizing, building a new service center with 44 bays, a 24,000-square-foot parts department and equally sized administrative and corporate offices opening in October. It will eventually expand its sales space, provide fabrication services and ultimately hire 200 additional employees.

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