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Power Breakfast Sees 850-Plus; Holcomb Inks Bill

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May 11, 2017 by   Leave a Comment

Indiana Gov. Holcomb addresses Power Breakfast crowd

The throngs began arriving just before sunup Thursday (May 11), filling the RV/MH Hall of Fame’s Northern Indiana Event Center in Elkhart, Ind., to capacity for the fifth edition of the RV Power Breakfast – an event that has evolved into an integral cog on the industry’s trade show circuit. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com home page. Photos by Shaw Spence).

Eclipsing last year’s attendance high mark, the event drew 850-plus as organizers announced a sellout over four weeks ago. Facilitated by RVBusiness and Bj Thompson Associates, the Power Breakfast again delivered a wide-ranging, information-laden format as key leaders representing the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the sector’s dealer, supplier and OEM ranks – along with high-level officials from state and local government – offered insight into the industry’s record-setting pace and its standing as an economic force in Indiana.

“The RV industry has been a key driver in the state’s comeback over the last 10 years,” stated Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb during his keynote address. “When things ground to a halt, the RV industry was at the forefront of that 20% unemployment. But you did what Hoosiers have always done – rolled up your sleeves and got things rolling.

“What a difference a decade makes. Since the downturn, the RV industry has consistently produced year-over-year growth, and it looks like that trend is going to carry into 2017 as projections show shipments will be just shy of 500,000 units. And it’s not just the RV manufacturers that have benefited. It’s a case of a rising tide raises all ships, also bringing growth to the suppliers and ancillary industries.”

Gov. Holcomb signs bill on RV sales tax in Indiana

Holcomb stressed that one of his administration’s main objectives was to support and promote that growth. In dramatic fashion, he backed those words with the signing of a ceremonial bill that will directly impact the state’s dealer body by ensuring that Indiana tax on RVs will be assessed at the same rate as the state where the RV will be titled.

“The bill will help promote one of Indiana’s largest and most important industries in order to better compete with our neighbors and the world in RV sales,” he said. “It will make a strong industry even stronger in Indiana. We will continue to look at ways to improve conditions for the RV industry.”

Holcomb also pointed to other positive signs that aid in not only retaining jobs but recruiting new workers to the state. “We are a AAA credit state, have $2 billion in reserve, low taxes and reasonable, predictable regulations,” Holcomb noted. “The Indiana state government is here to help, not provide hurdles.”

He added, “We are the No. 1 manufacturing state in the nation, of which the RV industry is a big part. We are also bolstering our presence in the technology sector, tripling the national average in terms of high-tech job growth. We’re not just getting started, we are on a roll, and I think we truly have the opportunity to take Indiana to the next level.”

That sentiment was also shared at the local level as Elkhart Chamber of Commerce President Kyle Hannon and Mark Dobson, president of the Elkhart Development Corp., expressed the need to successfully recruit new workers while also making Elkhart County an attractive community to reside.

“First, I want to say thank you to the RV industry,” Dobson said. “I am not aware of another industry that recovered so quickly from the economic fallout. It is our job to help that growth continue by making an investment in our community, in employees and in our facilities. We stand ready to help.”

RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer shares statistics on industry growth

While Elkhart County was the focus of the gathering, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Frank Hugelmeyer painted a strong, vibrant picture on the national level.

“What an exciting time to be in the RV industry,” Hugelmeyer said. “Barring any event outside our control, we are poised for continued growth. Record shipment levels are continuing, inventory levels are low at the retail level, and manufacturers are growing production capacity. We are also seeing that RVing is becoming a lifestyle choice with consumers.

“…One very telling statistic is that the U.S. makes more RVs than all other countries in the world combined. In every area that we watch, we are seeing trends that are in our favor for the long-term. We’re in the sweet spot and I think it’s fair to say we are in the golden era of RVing.”

Hugelmeyer emphasized the efforts by RVIA and the Go RVing Coalition to bring new buyers into the pipeline while continuing to cater to the industry’s core Baby Boomer demographic. 

“At some consumer shows, we’re seeing sales as high as 60% to first-time buyers,” he said. “We are definitely tapping into a new demographic that will help us grow on into the future.”

Hugelmeyer also called for collaboration in all levels of the industry to further fuel expansion.

“We need to be stronger together,” Hugelmeyer said. “A key is to improve the consumer experience – cutting down on a customer’s repair time. That needs to happen across all segments.”

Also in the mix for RVIA, according to Hugelmeyer, is a strong focus on joint advocacy and political reach. “I think we are at an unprecedented level of political clout, which will last for decades,” he noted, adding that a key avenue to improving the industry’s sway was the establishment of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable.

“The roundtable is raising political clout across all areas of recreation. We are working together on a cross-section of issues, including shrinking campgrounds on public land and a shrinking budget. We will not make an impact unless we get involved.”

Anchoring the second half of the Power Breakfast, a six-person panel conducted an open discussion on hot-button topics. The group including two RV OEMs, two suppliers and two dealers touched on an array of contemporary topics and included:

▪ Bob Martin, president & CEO, Thor Industries Inc.

▪ Mike Terlep, president, Forest River Inc.’s Coachmen RV

▪ Jason Lippert, CEO, Lippert Components Inc.

▪ Todd Cleveland, CEO, Patrick Industries Inc.

▪ Loren Baidas, president, General RV

▪ Brian Wilkins, president, Wilkins RV

The RV Industry Power Breakfast is facilitated by RVBusiness magazine and co-sponsored by Cummins Inc., Airxcel, Dometic Corp., Forest River Inc., Jayco Inc., KOA, RVIA, Thor Industries Inc., Spartan Motors Inc. and Wells Fargo Commercial Distribution Finance.

 

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