The Recreation Vehicle Industry Leadership prayer breakfast guest speaker Don Teague shared a story with attendees about listening to God and how it affects people’s lives. Teague, an Emmy award-winning CBS News correspondent, spoke to an audience of about 200 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel this morning (Dec. 1) during the 48th Annual RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
According to a news release, though he started his remarks with wit and laughter, Teague’s retelling of his ordeal in Iraq while reporting for NBC on the war was also compelling to the audience, and at times Teague himself was brought to tears when he spoke of intense experiences such as a bombing at a newly rebuilt school in Baghdad and witnessing the spiritual rebirth of Rafraf Barrak, a young woman who served as a translator for the news crew on site and whom Teague befriended. He said was so moved by her courage and her plight – she received routine beatings at home for even the most casual contact with males and was told from the age of 5 she was “bad” – he decided to try and bring her to America with him and make her part of his family.
Teague relayed he went to Iraq after much prayer from his wife and himself, believing it was what he was called to do.
“I felt something really important would happen there,” he said. Even though he was afraid for his safety, he said he knew he would be protected, thinking, “It’s time to press into God. He’s faithful and He’ll be there with me.”
Teague said his faith was upheld when two bombs were planted at the school but miraculously, no one was hurt. Additionally, he said Barrak herself was kidnapped by a group of extremists with the intent to kill her, but she managed to dive from the fast-moving car and escape in the car of another motorist. After completing the “insurmountable task” of bringing a Shiite Muslim Iraqi to America, Barrak now lives with his family in Texas, where she has become a Christian and is an active member of their church.
“God always finds a way,” Teague declared. “Rafraf thought she was just lucky until she realized God was pursuing her. He does that to all of us. Listen to God; he’s pursuing you.”
This is the first year the prayer breakfast returned after a hiatus last year due to the economic downturn.
“It was wonderful to be able to hold the breakfast again,” said Carl Pletcher, coordinator of the event for RVI Leadership. “Don was a fantastic speaker and we enjoyed his story immensely.”
The master of ceremonies for the event was Steve Plemmons, CEO of Bill Plemmons RV World. The invocation was said by BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, while Jim Huebner, president of Huebner Petersen, read scriptures and Jack Enfield, sales and marketing manager at MOR/ryde, conducted the prayer.
Gold sponsors were Wilbur Bontrager, Jayco chairman of the board and CEO; Matthew Miller, Newmar Corp. president; John Wuori, Fabric Services president and CEO; Thetford/Norcold; BJ Thompson; Marzahn & King Consulting Inc.; John Regan, Fabric Services chairman of the board; and Jim Huebner.
Silver sponsors were Jack Enfield; Steve Plemmons; John Spader, Spader Business Management Inc. president; Carl Pletcher; and Mike Keller, Keller Marine and RV president.
Bronze sponsors were Chris Craft and Chad Stoltzfus, Lake City Bank, senior vice presidents of commercial banking; Gary Shuder, Newmar Corp. vice president of finance; and Statistical Surveys Inc.
“We are so grateful to our sponsors who supported the event this year. We would not have been able to bring it back without their generosity,” Pletcher stated. To be included on the mailing list or become a sponsor for next year’s event, contact him at (574) 215-7173 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the RV industry in the early stages of recovery from the Great Recession of 2008-09, the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show kicks off Dec. 1 as a somewhat smaller, yet still substantial industry showcase at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville. And the general consensus among many industry insiders is that the RV sector’s improving prospects will shed a positive light on the entire sequence of trade-only events in the Ohio River city of Louisville.
And that’s a real switch from the atmosphere most had expected only a few months ago.
“I’m thinking it’s going to be a good show,” said Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Chairman Jim Sheldon, a Monaco RV LLC executive. ‘”There are enough things going on that indicate it will definitely be better than last year when the Louisville Show was right on the heels of the national financial crisis.
“At that time, we were in a tailspin,” he added. “Now we know what we are dealing with. And there are a number of positive signs I see in the economy: The stock market and home sales are up and there has been a reduction in the number of job losses.”
The viewpoint that the RV industry is turning the corner on the recession is currently shared by RVIA’s Robert M. “Mac” Bryan, vice president of administration, who tracks industry wholesale shipments. “Things definitely are improving,” Bryan told RVBusiness. “The marketplace is much more optimistic and that goes beyond saying ‘It’s improved.’ We have to see the opportunity for growth before growth occurs. I think that’s where we are in the cycle.”
To make his point, Bryan noted that had shipments stayed at the same level for the entire year that they were in January, dealers would have ordered fewer that 100,000 RVs in 2009. In August, the first month in two years that shipments were higher than the same month the year prior, however, the annualized rate had climbed to more than 200,000.
In September, Richard Curtin, director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan, predicted that 146,200 units would be shipped this year, an estimate that Bryan said would be revised shortly before the Louisville Show.
“I can already see that we likely will outperform (Curtin’s June) forecast,” Bryan said, adding that Curtin is also likely to revise upward his 2010 estimate of 185,000 total shipments. “My guess is that the new forecast will be a positive expression of the optimism we see in the marketplace for 2010.”
That said, the 602,807 square feet of space booked for the upcoming Louisville Show is 35% less than last year, which, of course, called for the show to be reconfigured without the use of the entire West Wing.
”It will certainly be a change from what people are used to,” said Mary “Mike” Hutya, RVIA vice president of meetings and shows. She said that OEM and supplier displays will be located in the KEC’s North and South wings, and that park model manufacturers will be dispersed among the regular exhibits and not segregated in Broadbent Arena as they were in the past.
Thor Industries Inc. has booked the largest amount of floor space for this year’s show, a total of 90,000 square fee. That includes 30,000 square feet for its Elkhart, Ind.-based Keystone RV Co. division plus another 60,000 square feet for the rest of Thor’s RV-building subsidiaries. The RV industry’s No. 2 manufacturer, Forest River Inc., Elkhart, Ind., has reserved 60,000 square feet.
Most of the supplier booths also will be located in the North and South wing hallways and atrium. There will be no supplier booths on the floor of Freedom Hall, where the Louisville Cardinals play basketball.
Early registrations, Hutya said, also indicate that fewer people will attend. Total show attendance last year was 8,427 — 2,934 of them registered as dealers or dealer representatives. ”My guess is that would be about 5% fewer this year,” Hutya said. ”I hope we get more, but I’m seeing the advance registrations.”
Keeping with tradition, the show kicks off Tuesday (Dec. 1) with the annual Outlook Breakfast — ”Outlook 2010: Let the Sun Shine” — with a lineup of substantial presentations that will communicate a strong message of optimism as the industry moves toward recovery, according to an RVIA.
The free event, coordinated annually by RVIA Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President Gary LaBella, begins way early — 6:45 a.m. — with a complimentary sit-down breakfast in the KEC’s South Wing Mezzanine Ballroom. Despite the lowered expectations for general show registrations this year, more than 1,000 attendees are expected to show up for ”Outlook 2010.” Lines form well before the doors open.
With Sheldon serving as host, ”Outlook 2010” will feature RVIA President Richard Coon’s thoughts on how RVIA has helped the industry weather the storm and prepare for the future. “Americans still love our products, and the forecast is for market growth in the upcoming year,” Coon said in RVIA’s release previewing the breakfast. “(The) show will help speed us along the road to recovery.”
In a segment of the breakfast dedicated to the all-industry Go RVing Coalition called “Spreading Sunshine in `09 and Beyond,” Go RVing co-Chairmen Dicky Riegel, CEO of Thor Industries Inc., and dealer Tom Stinnett, owner of Tom Stinnett’s R.V. Freedom Center in Clarksville, Ind., will be joined by RVIA’s LaBella to emphasize how in their view the Go RVing market expansion campaign promoted consumer demand in 2009.
Although Go RVing spending has been curtailed due to reduced RV shipments in 2009, the core mission of the Go RVing Coalition has been retained and the trio of Riegel, Stinnett and LaBella will unveil revised television spots and website content scheduled for launch early next year as confirmation of that fact.
Following the Go RVing presentation, RVIA Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson of BJ Thompson Associates, Mishawaka, Ind., will team with LaBella to review the association’s public relations program “that garnered substantial positive publicity in 2009 despite the year’s gloomy news environment.”
RVIA, by the same token, is hosting an RV Centennial booth at the show at which specifics regarding the industry’s upcoming 100th anniversary will be presented.
Other speakers will be named at a later date.
Meanwhile, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 30, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the Executive West Hotel) across from the KEC, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Foundation Inc. will sponsor a special workshop on customer service by coach, consultant and author Michael Duke.
”Michael Duke is a great choice for this year’s workshop because dealers are saying they are starting to feel an end to the current downsizing in the market” said RVDA Foundation Chairman Rick Horsey of Parkview RV Center, Smyrna, Del. ”His message of building a culture of service will help dealers continue to rise to the challenges they will face as the RV industry recovers.”
During the show, several suppliers will sponsor free seminars focusing on their products, including:
- 1 p.m.: Systems 2000 Inc.
- 2:30 p.m.: RV Web Service
- 4 p.m.: SHURflo
- 9:30 a.m.: Channel Blade/ARI
- 11 a.m.: Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp./Cummins
- 2 p.m.: ADP Lightspeed
- 3:30 p.m.: Parallax Power Supply
- 10 a.m.: Coach-Net
- 11:30 a.m.: Titan International
Despite the headwinds of 2009, RVBusiness is turning the corner on the second annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards after having gone to manufacturers earlier this year for nominations of their best dealers in terms of consumer care, civic involvement and general professionalism.
A number of applications are in hand and a host of nominated retailers, as has been the case for so many business people this year, are currently scrambling to submit theirs. “I can report at this point that things are going well,” says RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg, who is overseeing the second annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards program on behalf of the industry’s flagship trade journal. “And we’ll continue to flex with the times and bend that deadline to get as many of those last-minute applications as we can before turning them over later this month for review by our panel of experts.”
The Top 50, like last year, will be not be ranked in any sort of order, says Goldenberg, but will be presented as a group in alphabetical order at a reception and dinner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 7, during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, sponsored by the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). But five of the Top 50 will receive special recognition as Blue Ribbon dealers and one above the rest receives the Dave Altman Award, which goes to an exceptional corporate citizen.
Appearing as keynote speaker at this year’s dinner is former – and possibly future – Republican presidential candidate and Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, who will more than likely have a few things to say about the current economic and political landscape.
“All in all, we can’t imagine that anyone attending the RVDA Con/Expo wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to mix with Mr. Huckabee and their industry peers at the cocktail party prior to our dinner and to hear Mr. Huckabee speak on the hot topics of the day at the dinner itself, regardless of their political persuasion,” said Goldenberg. “And, of course, we’ll honor our dealers, one by one, at the dinner as well, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the professionalism for which we’re trying to help raise the bar in this industry.”
The bottom line of the Top 50 program, he maintained, is to continue to remind individual dealers – and the industry at large – of the intent and specific recommendations of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.
“I don’t think there is ever a bad time to be talking about excellence and customer service and treating people right, especially customers,” said BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, the Mishawaka, Ind., agency that is again working with RVBusiness on the Top 50. “So, whether it’s a good economy or a bad economy, this is a good program and helpful to the industry.”
Underwriting this year’s program are RVB’s “Leadership Alliance” sponsors for 2009, including “Platinum” co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, Utah; Blue Ox, Pender, Neb.; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, Minn.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, S.C., RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, Va., and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, Ind., while Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, Mo., is a “Gold” sponsor.
Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members and Con/Expo exhibitors) are available through RVBUSINESS.com’s registration link (http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).
Online versions of the applications can be downloaded by linking directly to http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-top-50-dealer-application/
Building on last year’s format, which appears to have worked rather well for those involved, RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award honorees will be promoted in the national press, in dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages – and on the websites — of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines, RVBusiness, Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.
However, publicity is only part of the incentive for participating in this bar-raising national promotion, says Thompson. “In talking with different size dealers last year, whether they be small, medium or large-size dealers,” said Thompson, “we did get some distinctly different responses. The smaller dealers were surprised that they were genuinely in the running to be recognized for their attention to customer satisfaction. They appreciated having the opportunity to be recognized for their hard work and their investment in customer service.
“The medium and larger dealers seemed to have their own unique set of issues in assuring good customer service and excellence in their operations,” added Thompson, who will be joined in hosting the event by Jim Sheldon, a Monaco RV LLC executive and current chairman of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Because they were larger, they weren’t able to have that one-on-one experience as principals because of their size. It was a unique challenge to them to drive down their values to the people in their dealer operations who were working with customers, whether it was sales or service or otherwise. It would take a lot of work and investment on their part to have that personalized service on a larger scale. So, to be recognized for actually accomplishing excellence on a larger scale for them was also satisfying.”
Leveling the playing field again this year is the fact that larger multi-store retailers, regardless of how many locations they have, can have only one store recognized in the RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award program.
“It was satisfying for those of us who were involved in the development of the program to see that most dealers were genuinely appreciative of having the spotlight put on them,” added Thompson, current chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee. “I think it’s always a good thing to put a spotlight on people who are doing things right and doing them well. Recognizing outstanding achievement in customer service and dealer operations not only lifts the dealership, but when they are spotlighted and shown off to the world, it lifts up the entire industry.”