As Jay Hesse, CEO and president of Blue Ox, battled the disease of cancer, he proactively prepared for the continued growth of the company.
According to a press release, key management and ownership changes have been made at Hesse’s request regarding the supplier’s strategic direction, including:
• Ellen Kietzmann will assume the role of CEO and president, and will be responsible for all day-to-day operations of Blue Ox. Her 20 years of experience with Blue Ox working side-by-side with Hesse and within the industry has made her “uniquely qualified to lead the company and to build on the legacy Hesse put in to place,” the company said.
• The new board consists of Kietzmann, Mike Hesse and Sandy Hesse.
“Everyone at Blue Ox looks forward to serving the needs of our customers and continuing the company’s growth with this leadership team in place,” the release stated.
Officials from RV supplier Blue Ox along with Iowa Speedway Track President Jimmy Small have announced a new multiyear partnership that designates the trackside general campgrounds and driver/owner motorcoach camping lots as the Blue Ox Campgrounds.
The two-tiered trackside campground overlooks turns 3 and 4 above the “Fastest Short Track on The Planet.” As part of the agreement, Blue Ox will be named the Official Towing Products Provider of Iowa Speedway. Blue Ox is the leading manufacturer of tow bars, baseplates, weight distributing hitches, gooseneck hitches and motorhome suspension products. The Blue Ox brand is familiar to many NASCAR team owners, fans and drivers who make race tracks their home for more than 30 event weekends a year.
“Blue Ox is pleased to partner with the Iowa Speedway,” noted Blue Ox President Jay Hesse. “We wanted to sponsor this track because of our fondness for the NASCAR fan base and because we see a lot of advantage in promoting our tow bars, weight distributing hitches, gooseneck hitches, etc. in this venue. Also it is the closest track to our factory in Pender, Neb., so it is easier for us to attend. We look forward to many years of working with the track to support our NASCAR friends”
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When the national recession almost drove Blue Ox’s recreational vehicle business over a cliff, the Northeast Nebraska manufacturer looked for ways to diversify. Last year, that road took the company to the U.S. military as it sought to adapt its technology and craftsmanship to military vehicles.
As reported by the Sioux City Journal, the small family business is known internationally for its line of towing products, such as hitches used to haul trailers behind RVs. But after the boom profit year of 2005, the company spent eight years trying to live up to its motto, “Strong As An Ox,” falling completely into the gutter in 2008, company President Jay Hesse said.
It appears Blue Ox turned the corner in 2013.
“It was an absolutely fantastic year, and this year even looks much stronger,” he said. “We’re looking for about a 15% increase in sales this year and more contingent growth on the bottom line.”
Blue Ox started developing tow bars for heavy-duty military vehicles such as Humvees and even tanks. The company, Hesse said, designed a modern product that is lighter and easier to use than the military’s current towing system, which dates to the 1940s.
Blue Ox’s defense-grade tow bars are capable of hauling more than 120,000 pounds, but light enough that a single soldier could quickly hook it up to a disabled vehicle. During combat, that could save lives and preserve valuable military assets.
To help navigate the competitive process of bidding for military and homeland security contracts, Blue Ox retained American Business Development Group, a defense consulting firm whose Arlington, Va., offices are near the Pentagon and National Guard Bureau Headquarters.
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Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox announced the newest innovation to its SwayPro weight-distributing hitch. According to a press release, the BXW4019 Signature Series Rotating Latch is a new bolt-on latch designed to accommodate frames from 3 inches to 6 inches tall.
The Signature Series Latch can be bolted directly to or around the trailer frame. The new design augments the existing trailer frame – some of which have difficulty absorbing the forces of a weight distributing hitch – and prevents trailer sway when used in concert with the SwayPro’s spring steel bars and innovative hitch head. Rotating the latch stops the chains from swinging, preventing sway before it happens, the company said.
“With the addition of this new Signature Series latch, Blue Ox continues to evolve the design of the SwayPro, the finest weight distributing hitch on the market,” noted Blue Ox Vice President Raymond Padgett.
Blue Ox offers the SwayPro weight distribution hitch in six tongue weights: 350, 550, 750, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 pounds.
Republican Nebraska U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer recently toured Blue Ox’s manufacturing plant and headquarters in Pender. According to a press release, she was hosted by Blue Ox Executive Vice President Ellen Kietzmann and Vice President Raymond Padgett.
“We’re delighted to welcome Senator Fischer to Blue Ox,” noted Kietzmann. “Time after time, Sen. Fischer has demonstrated her commitment to supporting policies that further the growth and deployment of manufacturing in Nebraska. Her outstanding work in Washington, D.C., has been instrumental in furthering laws and policies that help foster the growth of manufacturing throughout the nation.”
While at the manufacturing plant, Sen. Fischer spoke with Blue Ox executives and employees and discussed the implementation of federal and state policies that will help spur the growth of the manufacturing jobs in Nebraska and throughout the U.S.
Headquartered in Pender, Blue Ox is a key supplier to the RV industry.
Blue Ox President Jay Hesse and Vice President Ellen Kietzmann announced Tuesday (Oct. 1) an alliance with Forest River Inc. to equip select V-Cross and XLR models with SwayPro built-in sway prevention systems as optional equipment.
According to a release, Brent Stevens, national sales manager of the V-Cross and XLR divisions, is premiering the SwayPro system as an optional feature on the new 2014 lineup. Additionally, SwayPro is offered free as part of a special limited promotion on the Vibe brand through March 1, 2014.
“Blue Ox is the best name in sway control. Our customers will appreciate Blue Ox’s intuitive, easy to hookup hitch system that prevents trailer sway before it starts for a smooth towing experience. Each SwayPro system is specifically engineered for the weight of the unit it ships with,” Stevens said.
Blue Ox’s SwayPro hitch offers built-in sway protection that prevents trailer sway before it starts, under heavy loads, high winds and rutted road conditions with the latest in weight distribution technology. SwayPro’s spring bars are made from spring steel and flex to provide optimal weight distribution and improved ground clearance, providing a softer, smoother ride. There are no pins or clips to lose and no adjustments are needed. The tow-ready system comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Blue Ox, the leading manufacturer of towing products, has reintroduced the BrakeSafe, BRK4000, to its braking system line.
BrakeSafe is a supplemental braking system that allows for a smooth, proportional braking experience. It utilizes the motorhome’s air brakes to activate the brakes in the towed vehicle, reducing braking distances by an average of one-third.
The air cylinder is mounted discreetly close to the driver’s seat with a durable, black powder-coated bracket and a brake claw that easily attaches to a straight brake pedal arm.
It can be installed in less than an hour and, when not in use, can be removed in less than three minutes by disconnecting the brake claw from the pedal and the self-coiling hose from the towed vehicle.
BrakeSafe also requires no power draw from the towed vehicle’s battery; therefore there is no need to recharge it.
All units are equipped with ample DOT approved tubing for all applications, installation hardware and dust plugs to prevent road grime and moisture from potentially plugging the air disconnects. For more information, contact Blue Ox at (402) 385-3051 or visit www.blueox.com/p-1585-brakesafe.aspx for more information.
“Rollin’ On TV” announced the addition of Blue Ox as its newest advertising partner for the remainder of this year and into 2014.
“We look forward to working with Blue Ox in developing and producing a multimedia promotion package that includes both television and online advertising and promotions,” said Jose Moniz, executive director of “Rollin’ On TV,” in a press release.
Initial ads will begin airing the week of Sept. 29 with new ads being produced in November for the 2014 season.
“Rollin’ On TV,” now wrapping up its third year of production and syndication, has a total combined reach of 30 million homes on cable plus Direct TV and Dish Network.
Headquartered in Pender, Neb., Blue Ox is a longtime industry supplier of quality hitches, tow bars, steering and braking systems, and suspension products. For information on Blue Ox visit www.blueox.com. For information on ‘ROTV’ programming visit www.rollinontv.com
Industry supplier Blue Ox announced that Raymond Padgett has been named as vice president of marketing, effective Aug. 19.
According to a press release, Padgett has worked with Blue Ox in a variety of capacities for over 15 years. Prior to Blue Ox, Padgett worked for 12 years with Stag Parkway Inc. along with Keystone Automotive, where he helped the company expand into the RV market.
Padgett also holds board seats with the Recreation Vehicle Aftermarket Association (RVAA) and the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
The teams reporting directly to Padgett will include marketing and rally sales and service.
“I am looking forward to Raymond joining the executive team at Blue Ox,” said Jay Hesse, president of Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox. “I’ve always had a deep respect for Raymond and I’m confident that he will be a strong presence in helping us grow our business in all the markets we serve.”
Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox has developed a variety of double lugs that replace the standard triple lug on new or existing tow bars, allowing the tow bar to be connected to most aftermarket bumpers without any modifications.
According to a press release, these aftermarket bumpers cause problems for vehicle owners who want to dinghy tow their vehicles. “The baseplates that Blue Ox and other companies manufacture will not work on vehicles that have these aftermarket bumpers,” the release stated.
In other cases, where the connection points are not available as part of the aftermarket bumper, the purchase of a customer-designed Blue Ox baseplate that bolts to the vehicle frame will be needed to tow. Installation is usually less than 1 1/2 hours (depending on model) and requires standard tools.
Blue Ox’s towing equipment is constructed of durable steel and Finite Element Analysis tested. For more information visit http://blueox.com/p-1570-off-road-adapters.aspx.
Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox held its 18th Annual Service Award Banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux City on June 15.
According to a press release, the supplier hosts an annual banquet to show appreciation to the associates and their years of dedication. Associates and their guests were treated to a social hour and a gourmet meal before the award presentation began.
Blue Ox honors its associates at five-year intervals. Those honored at this year’s banquet were:
5 Years – Ward Barelman of Wayne (IT department).
10 Years – Ed Isaac of Bancroft (service tech), Todd Kubik of Pender (material handler), Aaron Mahaney of Walthill (maintenance), and Mike Thelander of Melbourne, Fla. (outside sales).
15 Years – Kim Bargmann of Bancroft (supply chain specialist), Delwin Kai of Pender (fabrication), and Deanna Wendte of Pender (customer care).
20 Years – Ron Duncan of Pender (Welding) and Cory Meyer of Pender (Shipping and Assembly).
25 Years – Duane Kratke of Pender (fabrication), Ray Potter of Thurston (assembly), Billie Rager of Emerson (fabrication) and Paul Thomsen of Pender (customer care).
35 Years – Keith Brehmer of Pender (material handler) and Doug Glaubius of Wisner (fabrication).
40 Years – Joan Beckman of Pender (assembly) and Larry Witt of Wakefield (welding).
In appreciation of their years of service the honored guests received various gifts including;
• Beautiful detailed, life-like Terry Redlin deer sculptures, modeled after Redlin paintings.
• Beautiful clock with a walnut frame, gold/silver accents, and a pendulum with crystals from Swarovski components.
• Beautiful world globe inlaid with over 25 hand carved semi-precious gemstones on a gold plated table stand with a built-in compass.
• $1,750.00 credit towards a trip for two to a domestic destination of choice within the 48 continental United States.
• Beautiful 10k patented Sunshine Gold Blue Ox ring with genuine full cut diamonds set in square collects in West German Fire Blue Spinel stones
• Beautifully designed classic styled grandfather clock.
•Trip for two to Ireland.
• Hawaiian cruise for two.
Blue Ox President Jay Hesse and Vice President Ellen Kietzmann completed a trip to Washington, D.C., last week where they visited members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation – Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fisher and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry – to discuss the role of Blue Ox in providing material to the U.S. Department of Defense.
According to a press release, Hesse said he and Kietzmann have been working with the American Business Development Group, which specializes in helping to develop contracts to supply equipment to U.S. military forces and introduce Blue Ox to Nebraska’s representatives in the nation’s capital.
“We were in Washington, D.C., to meet with our representatives to let them know who we are, where we’re at and what we do including diversifying what we already do,” said Hesse. “We’ve been manufacturing in the agricultural and the RV industries and we wanted to emphasize that we have the capabilities to work in the defense industry.”
Known for making hitches to haul trailers and vehicles behind utility, commercial, agricultural and recreational vehicles, Blue Ox also makes tow bars of defense-grade materials that can haul 20,000, 40,000, 80,000 and 120,000 pounds. “These would be pulling heavy military vehicles,” Hesse said of the heavy-load tow bars. “These would be from HUMVEEs and other similar-sized vehicles up to some tanks.”
Hesse said that Sens. Johanns, Fischer and Rep. Fortenberry plan to tour Blue Ox facilities in August. “We have our headquarters in Pender but we’re looking at expanding the engineering and logistics of our two facilities in Lincoln,” said Hesse who noted that retired Major General Roger Lempke, former adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard, will also tour Blue Ox facilities “We’re looking at acquiring equipment and expanding the Lincoln facilities to handle defense contracts,” said Kietzmann. “Our goal is to put the Department of Defense side of our operations in Lincoln.”
For more information about Blue Ox and its complete line of Blue Ox towing and braking systems, steering controls systems, sport carriers and accessories, along with its agricultural products, visit www.blueox.com.
Jay Hesse, president of Blue Ox, has donated $5,000 to the RV/MH Heritage Foundation, Inc.’s current “Burn the Bank Note” campaign for its Elkhart, Ind.-based RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum.
According to a press release, Hesse, who also serves on the Hall’s executive committee as vice chairman, proposed to Hall President Darryl Searer an idea designed to reach the “Burn the Bank Note” challenge even sooner. Hesse’s idea is what he describes as a “Peer Challenge.”
The “Peer Challenge program” works like this: Once a company or individual makes a contribution of $1,000 or more, they could challenge up to three other companies. The challenger would go to the Hall’s website and enter a few lines of information about the company or individual they intend to challenge. The web program then generates and sends a personalized, detailed e-mail informing them that they have been challenged to match the donation.
Hesse believes a company should challenge others in their own industry and market segment. In other words, an RV supplier would challenge another RV supplier, a manufacturer another manufacturer, a distributor a distributor or an individual would challenge another individual.
Hesse said, “The challenged company or individual basically has three choices. First, and ideally, to match the challenger’s donation; second, contribute a different amount either greater than or less than the original challenger’s donation and start a new challenge; or finally, ignore the challenge, which we hope they will not do. If they match the challenge or start a new challenge then they would challenge others. This bicycling effect could result in more donations and be a huge benefit to the Hall.”
Searer said, “This is a great idea. Jay’s Peer Challenge program should help us achieve our goal much quicker. I’ve learned since becoming president of the Hall that people in both the RV and manufactured housing industries are generous and would be happy to make a contribution if asked. And the ‘Peer Challenge’ makes it easy to ask.”
The goal is to raise $150,000 in voluntary contributions by April 30, 2013, to be matched by the Robert “Boots” Ingram family, which has offered a $50,000 challenge grant, and that $200,000 would pay off the Hall’s bank note to 1st Source Bank.
Tax-deductible gifts, adds Searer, may be made by mail, in person at the Hall, by phone at (800) 378-8694, or through the Hall’s web site at www.rvmhhalloffame.org.
The jury’s in, so to speak, on the latest RVBusiness/Blue Ox Survey question, and industry respondents have returned their most lopsided decision to date on the question of whether the North American recreational vehicle industry, for a variety of reasons, should better coordinate its new model introductions.
A commanding 88% of those posting their opinions say they’d prefer a more coordinated new model introduction cycle – something more akin to the auto industry where new releases all debut in a relatively narrow window of time, most likely in the fall. Only 12% would prefer to see things stay the way they are, where new models debut virtually non-stop year-round, from April to April.
Here’s the essence of what people were telling us in the latest round of a periodic survey sponsored by Blue Ox, the Pender, Neb.-based RV industry supplier, and administered by RVBusiness and RVBUSINESS.com:
“For dealers in the north, model change happens in the middle of the spring show season. Hardly fair to be competing in an already tough market with perceived non-current inventory that the dealers carried all winter. August/September would be the best time for model change allowing for a structured retailing program year round and especially for dealing non-current models.” — Anonymous
“Follow more closely to what the U.S. auto industry does.” — Anonymous
“Credibility is lost when a manufacturer jumps a model year prior to a calendar year (Ex: 2013 models sold in 2011). The industry regulating the timing for model year change-over would be a great thing to add consumer confidence to an industry lacking notable guidance.” — Brad, Southern RV
“I would rather be selling 2013s instead of 2012s. Early introduction allows 20 months or more before your product becomes aged in the public’s mind. You can get more for the 2013 than your competitor across town selling a similar 2012 model. You have all spring and summer to get rid of your 2012s. Dealers who want to keep ordering 2012s all spring and summer have things bass-ackwards, In my opinion, if you should get overstocked in the spring and summer, better to be overstocked with 2013s!” — Lee Litchfield, Lee’s RV Superstore
“Having a consistent dated new model introduction would level the playing field for those that come out early to get an advantage. More importantly, dealers being mfg partners, would respond better and could plan consistent inventory and consistent purchasing without fear of what dealers will receive in when built. — Rob Reid, President, Great Lakes RV Center
“New model release dates are part of the marketing plan by the manufacturer and the manufacturer must decide in concert with his dealers what is best. If dealers don’t like the release dates by their manufacturing partner, then they should change brands.” — Anonymous
“I think it would be great if they could be on a coordinated approach so that our customers aren’t so confused about new models b/c new car models come out next month for the 2013 year, so why not something like that for trailers? It also messes up the values of the previous year model, even if it was built the same year, dealers don’t want to keep having to drop the price for ‘last year’s model’ because a new model came out two months later. They (the manufacturers) need to agree on a coordinated approach to improve the overall RV business as a whole, and I know quality is not the main topic here, but a lot of them are still building substandard units and customers can tell.” — Anonymous
“A more coordinated approach to new model introductions would make it easier on all parties involved. However, I seriously doubt that the process can be controlled and monitored to the point that all manufacturers would comply.” – Keith Griffin, Bison Coach, LLC, A Navistar Company
“It would be great if they would all follow one release date unfortunately it all boils down to the almighty dollar. If brand “X” can get their latest greatest out before Brand “A” then the dealers will use their floorplan money to buy brand “X” with none left for brand “A”. This is the same reason the mfg shows have started in Elkhart, IN two months before the Louisville show to try to get the dealers to use all their money so they don’t have anything to spend at Louisville.” — Anonymous
Look for a new RVB/Blue Ox Survey question — on foreign trade — early next week.
Blue Ox, a key supplier of towing and hitching products, has introduced two new solutions to assist RVers with dinghy towing.
According to a press release, the new LED taillight wiring kits are not only brighter than standard bulb and socket kits, but are also smaller for easier installation. The kits install independent of the towed vehicle’s wiring, preventing back feed or warranty issues with the vehicle manufacturer. They’re available in both clear and red as a complete wiring kit or 10 packs of bulbs only.
Blue Ox’s fuse bypass switches are available in four different models. The switches provide a convenient alternative to the constant removal and re-installation of the fuse when changing from the towed mode to the driving mode.
The swithces offer a simple, one-time installation of the fuse switch allows for push button activation and deactivation of the fuse.