Planning is well under way for another eventful Great Outdoors Week, the American Recreation Coalition’s (ARC) annual celebration of outdoor recreation and its important contributions to the well-being of the American people and their communities.
According to a press release, the week begins with the observance of National Get Outdoors (GO) Day on June 11 and will include special events showcasing key recreation programs and recognizing the outstanding efforts being undertaken across the country to improve outdoor recreation experiences. Great Outdoors Week is one of the focal points of Great Outdoors Month, proclaimed nationwide by the president and by state governors in every state throughout the U.S.
The GO-Day launch of Great Outdoors Week will be marked at more than 100 sites where the public – especially young people – will be invited to enjoy different recreation activities and learn about additional, easily accessible recreation opportunities.
The U.S. Forest Service will celebrate GO-Day as Fee Free Day, waiving fees on millions of acres of national forests. And dozens of marina operators celebrating National Marina Day on June 11 will welcome thousands of visitors to these family-friendly gateways to wonderful boating experiences.
Programs featured during Great Outdoors Week will include: the Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to link the American people to their magnificent public lands; the Let’s Move Outside campaign launched by first lady Michelle Obama to combat childhood obesity; the ED OUT partnership program to encourage outdoor learning and fun; and the Recreational Trails Program, which serves as the foundation for state trail programs all across the country.
Great Outdoors Week will also include several different award ceremonies recognizing individual and collective achievements within the recreation community. The Coalition for Recreational Trails will salute outstanding trail programs and projects funded by the federal Recreational Trails Program. ARC will present its Legends Awards to exceptional individuals from seven federal agencies whose personal efforts have led to substantial improvements in outdoor recreation resources and management. ARC’s Beacon Awards will recognize the innovative use of technology in visitor services and recreation management on public lands. And, finally, the Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award – the recreation community’s most prestigious award – will recognize the leadership, vision and accomplishments of one extraordinary individual whose personal commitment to the value and importance of recreation has contributed significantly to the welfare of the American people.
“Great Outdoors Week gives us a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the people, places and programs that bring healthy outdoor fun to millions of Americans every day of the year,” said ARC President Derrick Crandall. “They really put the ‘Great’ into the Great Outdoors.”
Can America’s credit unions provide part of the lending answer for recreational vehicle and marine manufacturers?
On the premise that the nation’s more than 8,100 federal credit unions represent “enormous potential” as a source of financing, this question was broached Wednesday (Mar. 11) during the all-day seminars hosted at the Century Center in downtown South Bend, Ind., by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
American Recreation Coalition (ARC) Executive Director Derrick Crandall offered attendees an overview of RVIA’s pilot program with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) to develop consumer and, possibly, dealer floorplan lending through credit unions.
Crandall and RVIA President Richard Coon were joined on the panel by Rick Rice, president and CEO of South Bend-based Teachers Credit Union – a northern Indiana-based cooperative with $1.6 billion in assets – and industry veteran and lenders’ consultant Paul Novotny, who has been working recently with both the RV and marine industries. They contended there are opportunities in the credit union arena that might help replace some of the financial clout lost recently by the exits of some key retail and wholesale lenders.
The crux of the session was a report on the “Recreation Industry/Credit Union Liaison Program,” as it has come to be called. “RVIA through ARC, along with RVDA and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), got ahold of the national credit union association and we’re working through them to work out a strategy where credit unions become more available with credit – both wholesale and retail – on behalf of dealers of recreational vehicles as well as for marine, snowmobiles and those kinds of things,” Coon said. “We have an actual pilot program under way with that national organization to get several dealers across the country – I believe we’re working with six dealers at them moment – and putting them together with their local credit union. Once we get those six results, then we plan on looking for the refinements that need to be made between the two industries and try to go forward with that.”
“The beginnings of these discussions were in the fall of 2008 when we began to explore the various relationships that already existed and the opportunities for growing those relationships,” said Crandall. “It culminated in our first CEO-level meeting with Dan Mica, the president of CUNA and the CEO’s of RVIA, RVDA and NMMA. Our findings were, to me at least, quite surprising. We found that there was a substantial existing relationship between credit unions and the RV and boating industries.”
Crandall said that they’ve initially found that credit unions, in certain respects, were easier to work with than other lenders and, contrary to the preconceptions of some, membership requirements don’t seem to represent a substantial barrier. In fact, he added, while 90% are already lending for boats and RVs at the consumer level, many of them also do member business loans that, in some cases, qualify as floorplan loans to member businesses.
Inasmuch as most credit unions were less affected by the credit crunch than traditional banks, the recreation-related industries have put together a CUNA/Recreation Industry Liaison Committee to explore how to take constructive steps forward to share information and explore future opportunities.
“What we have done is we put together a listing of some qualifying dealers who have lost traditional floorplanning through GE and Textron and others and are looking for new sources of commercial loans,” said Crandall, elaborating on Coon’s “We married them up with some larger credit unions that are operating in their geographic areas. And we are now bringing them together for initial conversations. So, we’re looking at a way to actually be match makers, to begin conversations and use these as a test bed for what may develop.”
He added that one of the things that recreation industry manufacturers, including motorcycle and snowmobile makers, can do to nurture this relationship is to promote credit unions among potential buyers in the future with an eye toward some sort of pre-approval format.
Meanwhile, there’s a move afoot to alter current regulations that limit credit union member lending to 12.25% of total assets. “CUNA at the national level is seeking to increase the allowed level of commercial lending by credit unions,” said Crandall. “It’s not as simple as it sounds because there are opponents to that initiative, especially from some banks. But RVIA has already signed on as a partner in the coalition to expand and free up credit union commercial lending.”