Junction City, Ore.-based Country Coach Corp. continues to make strides in its comeback under the guidance of President Ron Lee, according to a press release.
One of the original founders of now defunct Country Coach LLC, Lee purchased the intellectual property and opened a 200,000-square-foot service center one year ago as the company marked its first anniversary on Jan. 3.
“We started with motorhome service. We can work on any motorhome but specialize in Country Coaches,” Lee said, noting that the company had reestablished all of the departments necessary to service and repair motorhomes. “This year we have been very busy working on all types of Country Coaches and Prevost conversions along with many other brands.”
In addition, Country Coach has added OEM parts, consignment sales and even an apparel store. Starting out with 10 employees, the firm’s work force has grown to about 25 workers.
Lee said that the first year was spent not only rebuilding the company infrastructure but also rebuilding the poorly maintained buildings.
“When it rained, more water came in than the roof shed,” Lee said. “We reestablished all of the manufacturing departments on the remaining 34 acres and 200,000 square feet of buildings. These included offices with server, computers and phone systems, paint department with state-of-the art downdraft booths, fiberglass and steel fabrication shops, cabinet shop, Dynomo meter, and a brake and laser alignment center.
After receiving a dealership license from the State of Oregon last January, the company is building its consignment business, selling only “very well maintained used coaches,” according to Lee. Currently, the consignment sales department, headed up by Glenn Norris, has a wide selection of coaches in the showroom with several more coaches on the way in preparation for the spring and summer travel months.
“We have really noticed the increase in calls this past week or so. It is like the switch has been turned on,” said Norris.
Country Coach also set up a website, www.countrycoach.com, and a Facebook page, and just released its third edition of the online eMagazine Country Coach Destinations, which offers owners valuable technical advice, news about CCC and even recipes. The latest edition, Winter 2012, can be found at http://destinations.countrycoach.com.
Lee said that he had three goals when he purchased the intellectual property back in 2010 after the company folded. His first priority was to save the property and buildings – with Country Coach LLC in bankruptcy, they had stopped paying the rent on the buildings. Goal number two was to save not only the brand name but the culture. “Bringing back the culture and information to Country Coach owners, who had nowhere to go, was of high importance,” he said.
The third goal was to bring jobs back to his friends at Country Coach and to a community that was devastated by the economy. So far, Country Coach has paid over $750,000 in payroll to employees who were previously employed by Country Coach. “Creating jobs in Junction City was and still is a top priority,” Lee said.
With still many new accomplishments and challenges in the near future, the next goal will be to start manufacturing new product. “This has always been the plan, to build jobs and new motorhomes here at Country Coach,” Lee said.
A group of Country Coach motorcoach owners are planning and presenting a Country Coach Friendship Rally June 13-17 at Riverbend RV Resort in Harrisburg, Oregon. It is open to CC brand motorcoaches, according to a news release.
The Rally Theme is “A New Beginning” and the schedule will include a good amount of free time for fellowship and friendship. Among the seminars and presentations planned, one will feature Ron Lee, owner of Country Coach Corp. LLC (CCC), who will address the group with updates on the company.
The formation of a new club for Country Coach owners and friends nationwide (which would become a chapter of FMCA) will be discussed at this event.
Ron Lee of CCC, who owns all intellectual property of the former Country Coach LLC, has offered exclusive use of the Country Coach logo and Country Coach name for use by this new club (which would become an independent new chapter of FMCA) if they so desire.
Among the rally sponsors are: Oregon Motorcoach Center, Country Coach Corp., Bob Dickman Tire Center/Les Schwab, Premier RV Service and Storage, Guaranty RV Center and Carr Industries.
Rally registration information is posted on several of the rally sponsor’s websites-for example, see link: http://www.oregonmotorcoachcenter.com/index.php.
There’s also a new Just Country Friends Yahoo group where rally detail will soon be found. http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/justcountryfriends/
CC friends are invited to spread the word.
Contact: Vern Meighen or John Malabicky, rally hosts, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, respectively.
From the RV industry to semiconductor plants, manufacturing companies in Oregon crumbled under the weight of the so-called Great Recession.
As the American economy recovers, manufacturing companies are starting to rebuild, KEZI-TV, Eugene, Ore., reported.
The recession hit the motorcoach industry like a tidal wave and wiped out dealerships and manufacturers.
“It was devastating to the RV industry, but the RV industry is coming out of it,” said Ron Lee, president of Country Coach Corp.
Lee is the new owner of Country Coach. His brother Bob started the company in 1974.
“I was here in the beginning when we were called Country Camper, and I just have this, I guess it’s a passion for this company,” Ron Lee said.
Ron Lee retired from Country Coach in 1995.
In 2008, the company started to experience rough water that soon turned into bankruptcy and eventually Country Coach went out of business. The assets were sold at auction.
With a new purpose and a new plan, Ron Lee came back in hopes to rescue the drowning company.
“I came back for the auction and purchased the intellectual property and the equipment that I needed,” Lee said.
With that equipment, Lee threw a life preserver to Country Coach.
His employees are now building coaches on an order basis.
“We now can build any part of a Country Coach, including doing it totally, but we still have excess space,” Lee said.
As for that extra space and the 15 employees he needs to pay, he’s using something he calls “incubator companies” to build the life raft.
“We have two of those coming on right now,” Lee said.
Those incubator companies help Lee broaden his base and keep that life raft afloat, which is a method other manufacturers are employing as well.
Country Coach is building again with future plans to build sustainable coaches.
“If you have some sort of faith in mankind and especially this American spirit, you have to know that it’s going to come back and it’s going to come back stronger than ever, and I just want to be there when it happens,” Lee said.
Back in 2009, RV manufacturer Country Coach closed its doors in Junction City, Ore. But a near-empty business warehouse is showing signs of life.
It’s all part of one man’s push to restore the once-thriving Lane County business.
“It was a relief to hear that there was a possibility that something would get going again,” said Terry Keeler, employee.
Workers are busy with organizing manuals, sorting through old files, and re-pairing those parts of the infrastructure that need tending.
The 10 employees that Country Coach has hired back so far consider themselves the lucky ones.
“There’s a lot of people out of work, the RV industry collapsed around here. People are all looking for that job and I’m sure it’s giving them hope to see something coming back,” said Jim Cooley, service manager.
Country Coach is slowly getting back on its feet. Eventually it will focus on selling parts, servicing RVs and consignment sales.
“The product is good, we have the ability to build it, we have the talent here, we have the facility. Why not do it?” said Ron Lee, president of Country Coach Corp.
Ron Lee, the brother of founder Bob Lee, is responsible for Country Coach’s re-birth. His idea is to start lean, make smart choices and eventually grow.
“It’s going to take years to rebuild this company to what it was. I mean in its peak heyday, you’re talking 1,800 employees,” Lee said.
But it’s the changing image of Country Coach that the community of Junction City says will make a big difference no matter how small operations are at this point.
“This would be just be a bonus for us here in town. It really gets us excited to see new things happening and the town is kind of getting a resurgence going on right now,” said Tom Slagle of Junction City.
Country Coach says when the time comes to start manufacturing RVs again, it wants to take a close look at greener technology, like hybrid diesels.
Owners say improving gas mileage would most likely improve interest and sales.
Could the legendary Country Coach brand make a comeback in the hands of one of the line’s original founders?
That’s the plan, according to Ron Lee, 68, president of Country Coach Corp., which Monday (Jan. 3) opened a 200,000-square-foot service center on 34 acres in Junction City, Ore.
”Right now what we are doing is motorhome service,” said Lee, who worked with his brother, Bob, to morph the 1973-vintage Country Camper nameplate into a leading highline motorhome builder, Country Coach Inc. ”We will work on any motorhome, but we are specializing in Country Coach motorhomes, and we are now making Country Coach parts.”
The original Country Coach Inc. was sold to California-based National RV Holdings in 1996. A group led by Los Angeles investment banker Bryant Riley that included Bob Lee bought it back in 2007, shortly before the recession hit. Country Coach Holdings Inc., which had financial problems, attempted to reorganize under the protection of bankruptcy court, but was unable to do so and last year was liquidated.
Ron and Bob Lee and Bob’s wife, Terry, bought the company’s intellectual property as well as key pieces of equipment at a court-ordered auction.
Bob Lee is not associated with the current venture.
Ron Lee, in turn, is seeking $5 million in private capital for the 11-employee company before making a serious run at motorhome assembly. ”I don’t know if I can pick this thing up and make it work,” Ron Lee said. ”But I’m going to try real hard.”
”I own the property and I am leasing it to the corporation,” he said. ”The property is an asset we can work with to get a private investor. If I had the money, I’d start manufacturing tomorrow, but I don’t.”
The bankruptcy auction garnered the Lee brothers Country Coach’s brand names, blueprints, steel fabrication and fiberglass lamination equipment, 13 paint booths and chassis testing equipment.
Ron Lee said he wanted to restart Country Coach because of his connection with the Junction City community, Country Coach’s former employees and to help ”orphaned” Country Coach owners.
”Even after I left, my friends continued to work here and they lost their jobs when the company closed down,” he said. ”This community is just dying on the vine because of what has happened in the RV business. Country Coach was a big part of my life for 35 years.”
Lee said he is drawing on employees who were laid off from Country Coach at the time of the bankruptcy. At one time, Country Coach Inc. employed 1,500 people.
”The first 10 people I hired have a combined experience of 245 years with Country Coach,” he said. ”There’s nothing wrong with the Country Coach product. Country Coach was just a victim of bad management and the economy.”
Lee said that his new firm will pursue ”other projects that are not RV related,” and is awaiting a dealership license from the state of Oregon so that the company can sell coaches on consignment. ”We have a huge facility and a lot of talent here,” he added. ”We want to utilize that to make jobs in Junction City.”
Lee said he is undaunted by the decline in the motorhome market during the Great Recession. ”I believe we are six months to a year ahead of the recovery curve,” he said. “That should put us in a strong position.”
One of Lane County, Ore.’s top employers of the past is mounting a comeback.
Country Coach in Junction City is set to re-open in January to service RVs with a plan to eventually expand operations, KVAL-TV, Eugene, reported.
Former owner Ron Lee is investing millions of his own dollars in this new version of Country Coach.
It’s a far from the heyday of the RV industry but the wheels are in motion for a comeback.
The new company is called “Country Coach Corp.”
KVAL News had the chance Tuesday (Nov. 30) to sit down for an exclusive interview with Ron Lee to find out what he has in mind – and why he came out of retirement to do this.
The new Country Coach opens Jan. 3.
It will be a far cry from the pre-recession days of 1,800 workers on the payroll, but Lee says 16 to 20 employees will be hired initially to service RVs, work the paint shop and handle consignment sales.
Lee’s three goals?
“I want to save the property.
“Two: I want to save Country Coach for those (RV) owners that have been loyal to us for years,” Lee said.
And three: Jobs.
“Give them jobs again in Lane County, Junction City – to put my friends back to work here again,” he said.
KVAL’s Tom Adams asked Lee and chief engineer David Diamond, “Gentlemen, how much investment is this going to take to get the doors open and get things moving here - or is that a number you can’t disclose?”
Lee: “Actually, I’m committing roughly $12 million to this project.”
Officials announced their plans on the new company website.
Ultimately, they want to start making RVs again. They said that will take a $5 million state, federal or local grant.
Diamond tells KVAL, “We’re busy; we’re working hard on securing that funding to make things happen and happen as quickly as possible. Nothing is more important, no bigger goal sits in front of me right now than to be an enabler of job creation.”
Jack Roberts, director of the Lane Metro-Partnership, believes the company is taking the right approach in this first phase.
“They’re not going to jump over their heads, but I do think that their goal is to be making coaches again and looking at some other alternatives,” Roberts said.
Even in a tough economy, Lee is confident good things will happen.
“It will happen,” Lee said. “I’m assured. If I wasn’t positive, I wouldn’t go here. I’ve done it once, I can do it again.”
Lee said if they can get a timely approval on their grant request, they could announce plans to resume RV production next summer. That would mean 70 to 75 additional jobs.
A member of the family that founded Oregon-based Country Coach plans to reopen the company in January, on what appears to be a smaller scale — at least initially — than the RV maker formerly operated on, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.
Country Coach LLC went out of business last year.
Newly incorporated Country Coach Corp. says on its website: “We are pleased to announce that Country Coach Corporation is starting up operations at the factory in Junction City, Oregon, on January 3, 2011. At that time we will post contact numbers for our service center and our technical service support lines here on our website.”
“Country Coach Corporation owns all of the intellectual property (IP) of the former Country Coach, Inc. and Country Coach LLC,” according to the website, www.countrycoach.com. “This IP includes all of the production tooling and molds for fabricating virtually every part of your Country Coach Motorhome. Also included in the IP are all of the engineering drawings, bills of material, and as-built configurations for Country Coach Motor homes and DynoMax chassis built over the years.
“Our initial goal is to use the power of the IP and factory trained personnel to supply complete coach service, parts manufacturing, paint shop, phone technical service, and consignment sales to help maintain the investment in your Country Coach Motorhome.”
At the bottom of the website is a photo of a Country Coach RV, with the caption “Ron Lee’s 2009 Country Coach Magna.” Lee, who could not be reached for comment, is listed as the agent for Country Coach Corp. in state records.
Lee’s brother, Bob, founded Country Coach in 1973. The company was sold to California-based National R.V. Holdings in 1996, but Lee and others complained about what they saw as the new owner’s lack of support for the Junction City operation. A group led by Los Angeles investment banker Bryant Riley that included Bob Lee bought Country Coach back in 2007, shortly before the recession hit. Country Coach LLC, which had financial problems, attempted to reorganize under the protection of bankruptcy court, was unable to do so and was liquidated.
Earlier this year, Ron and Bob Lee and Bob’s wife, Terry, bought the company’s intellectual property as well as key pieces of equipment at auction. The family already owns most of the land and buildings.
Junction City’s interim administrator, Jamon Kent, said Friday that the city is aware — “and very supportive” — of efforts to resurrect Country Coach in some form.
“Country Coach is an extremely important part of our town and has been for some time,” Kent said. At its peak, Country Coach employed about 1,800 people. And, Kent said, the company and its employees supported other local businesses.
Kent said he believes Ron Lee plans, at least initially, to serve Country Coach owners who want to repair or modify their RVs, rather than build new ones. David Diamond, who is working with Lee on the start-up, said he couldn’t provide much information beyond what is on the company website.
But, he said, “Ron Lee has three goals: To save the property, to save the name Country Coach, and to bring back jobs to Lane County for so many workers that formerly worked for Country Coach, or the RV industry, or any industry that has gone away in our neighborhood.”
For 460 Country Coach Corp. workers who have been out of work since mid-November, it’s official: Their jobs are gone.
The Junction City, Ore., company late Wednesday notified employees who have been on furlough since the RV factory was idled four months ago that their jobs were being terminated, according to The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore. The company also notified the state Department of Community Colleges & Workforce Development.
Such a notice is intended to comply with the federal Workforce Adjustment and Retraining and Notification Act, or WARN Act, which requires companies to give employees and communities 60 days’ notice of a mass layoff.
“We needed to make sure people were duly notified of termination,” company spokesman Matt Howard said. “We certainly owe it to all our employees involved to let them know where they stand.”
Country Coach had sent a letter Dec. 31 notifying workers that the company could close for good by the end of February unless it was able to obtain new financing.
Country Coach is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and attempting to reorganize itself as a much smaller company. Last week, it began calling back employees to work on coaches that were partially completed.
Under its new business plan, Country Coach plans to complete about one coach per week. It has about 40 coaches in the pipeline. It expects to have about 100 workers on the job by next week.
At its peak in 2006, the company had about 1,800 employees.
“Relative to our former size, we are much smaller, and have a much more concentrated group of talent,” Howard said.