Matt Carr, 45, owner of Carr Industries which offers RV, residential or commercial cabinetry and countertop manufacturing in Veneta, Ore., just reached the quarter century mark in his career as an artisan craftsman of cabinetry and countertops in the RV industry.
Carr Industries is also celebrating an anniversary — its second anniversary. After 23 years of honing his craft with Country Coach LLC, two years ago Carr launched Carr Industries, a company devoted to crafting cabinetry and countertops for RV and residential applications, according to a news release.
Today Carr Industries specializes in all motorhomes from Class C’s to diesel pushers and all manufacturers, as well as residential work.
Carr began his career at Country Coach at age 20 as a cabinet maker. He quickly progressed through the company ranks, becoming an expert in the field: from the concept and design phase to manufacturing and installing and when necessary repairing everything from cabinets to countertops to raised panel doors to soffits and snack tray knobs.
Matt Carr has built or helped build or design in one form or fashion, the cabinetry for every floorplan for every model of motorcoach Country Coach built, from the Class C’s, to the diesel pushers and the bus conversions. He took over the reins of Country Coach Cabinet Division plant manager in 1993.
Carr Industries is joining a select group of businesses as a sponsor of a Country Coach Friendship Rally to be held June 13-17 at River Bend RV Resort in Harrisburg, Ore. Carr will be presenting informational seminars related to care, maintenance and upgrades for your coach cabinetry at the event. Carr encourages Country Coach Motorcoach owners to email the rally hosts to register for the rally. Vern and Phyllis Meighen and John and Juanita Malabicky will serve as rally hosts (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively).
As cosponsor of this rally, Carr Industries encourages all Country Coach motorcoach owners to attend to be a part of history in the making as this rally will mark the formation of a new Country Coach Owners Club (this new FMCA chapter’s formation will be discussed and named if formed during the rally).
Just prior to the Country Coach Friendship Rally, Carr Industries invites visitors to their booth at the FMCA NW Area Rally, June 2-5 at the Linn County Fair and Expo Center in Albany, Ore.
For more information on Carr Industries, you may contact Matt Carr at (541) 968-1888 or visit www.carr-industries.com.
Premier RV Services of Junction City, Ore., is launching a new RV service electronic newsletter, PREMIER Service Notes, dedicated to providing pertinent service and technical motorcoach information to RVers nationwide.
Jake Smith, RV industry veteran and longtime Country Coach service specialist, will address timely service topics in each issue. Debbie Hollembaek, former vice president of Design at Country Coach LLC and currently owner of DLH Designs, will present a Livability column in each issue.
To receive a copy of this e-newsletter, contact premierrvstorage@gmail.
Smith will be on hand at the June 13-17 Country Coach Friendship Rally in Harrisburg, Ore., offering a 15% discount on service appointments scheduled during this Country Coach owners rally. Premier RV Services is a rally cosponsor and will co-facilitate a chassis maintenance seminar at the rally, where a new Family Motor Coach Association Chapter will be formed.
Visit www.premierrvstorage.com to learn more about the company and about Premier RV Services’ participation at the upcoming Country Coach owners rally in Harrisburg.
Premier RV Services offers coach service, storage and the largest inventory of pre-owned Country Coaches for sale at 325 E First Avenue in Junction City It is co-owned by Louie Courtemanche and Gary Obermire.
For more information, contact Courtemanche or Obermire at (541) 998-2640.”
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.”
Country Coach International (CCI), a recreation club celebrating its 26 anniversary as an Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Chapter, not only remains devoted to Country Coach motorcoach owners’ enjoyment of their RV, the club also has become a vital link between Country Coach brand owners and qualified service and parts providers, according to a news release.
In the wake of Country Coach LLC’s closure earlier this year, the CCI club began compiling a resource list of service and parts providers by state who are familiar with the high-tech motorcoaches CCI Members choose to drive. Members and non-members alike, who had grown accustomed to calling the manufacturer’s service department, are now seeking Country Coach specific parts and service referrals at the Club office.
The information as found at www.countrycoachclub.com in Industry Links is sortable by state and includes comments within each listing as to how the business came to be included (i.e., member recommended, CCI Partner offering a club member discount, or formerly on the Country Coach, LLC approved service center listing).
While CCI is pleased to be able to serve as this vital link between its members and qualified CC-specific service and parts providers, its primary mission is to provide social venues, as well as activities and resources (like its dedicated website, members only forum and monthly e-Newsletter, On the Road Again) to its members, which enhance the Country Coach ownership experience.
CCI held a rally in Kerrville, Texas, this past May and its next rally on the Country Coach International Club Rally Schedule is the Combined Country Coach Area Clubs’ Fall Rally to be held in Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Oct. 25-29. One hundred fifty CCI member coaches will gather at this CCI-sponsored event.
The fall of the recreational vehicle industry in Oregon’s Lane County was swift, relentless and brutal.
A year ago at this time, local RV makers sent workers home for their customary holiday furloughs. Most workers never came back. Within months, two companies, Monaco Coach Corp. and Country Coach LLC, filed for bankruptcy, reported The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.
Today, Country Coach is all but dead, its bankruptcy case now in Chapter 7, meaning everything it owns will be sold to satisfy debtors. Monaco Coach, once a high-flying publicly traded company headquartered in Coburg, became a tiny division of a multinational corporation, Navistar International, after its assets were sold off in bankruptcy. A third manufacturer, Marathon Coach, remains in business, but has limped along on a curtailed production schedule, building a fraction of the high-end bus conversions that it did in previous years.
“It was one of those business cycles that happens once a century,” said Steve Schoellhorn, president and chief operating officer of Marathon Coach. “It came so fast and so hard, it was like a tsunami, and we couldn’t get out of the way of it. … The whole thing blew up.”
While the Oregon RV industry is not gone, what’s left is a mere shadow of what was a major force in the local economy.
As recently as 2005, transportation equipment manufacturing — an industry dominated by the three RV makers — employed 4,500 people in Lane County, second only to the wood products industry. By last March, that number had fallen to 900, before rebounding to 1,400 in October, according to the state Employment Department.
Monaco Coach employed more than 2,000 people in Lane and Linn counties as recently as 2008. Today, about 400 people are working at the Coburg plant, Navistar spokesman Roy Wiley said. Country Coach employed nearly 2,000 workers at its Junction City plant as recently as 2006. Today, the company is defunct. Marathon Coach employed more than 400 people in 2008. Today, it has 240 employees.
Ron Folk is among the former RV workers who hopes things start turning around soon. A production worker at Monaco for 51/2 years, Folk now is working part time, doing maintenance at an RV resort on the coast, making about one-third of what he earned at Monaco. He stays in a travel trailer, and only makes it home to see his wife in Springfield a couple of times a month, he said.
“It pays more than unemployment,” he said. “You do what you got to do. … As soon as the economy turns around, and people start hiring inland, I’ll probably find something closer.”
Other workers, such as Todd Wilson of Springfield, were called back to work for the new Monaco last summer after being unemployed for more than six months.
“When I got the call, I was ecstatic,” he said.
With fewer people on the job, workers carry more responsibility for quality, he said. Workers also make more money than before, and get similar benefits, he said.
“It’s still a great place to work, and a great crew of people to work for and work with,” he said.
Skilled workers remain
Jack Roberts’ job is to find the silver lining — or at least a ray of hope — in all those clouds. As executive director of the Lane Metro Partnership, Roberts works to retain and recruit employers. One bright spot he sees in the implosion of the RV industry is the number of skilled workers left behind. He said he’s hopeful most will stick around Lane County until the economy turns around.
“When people get back into the production cycle, when manufacturing jobs start to come back, the presence of that work force here should make us attractive,” he said.
Roberts said that, in hindsight, it’s obvious that a business that relied on wealthy people spending large wads of cash on discretionary, luxury items would be vulnerable in an economic downturn. But, he said, “It’s very hard to say no to people who have large sums of money and who want to buy what you’re selling.”
While the industry looked at demographics in its favor — aging baby boomers with time and money to spend on leisure — they missed the economic clouds, he said.
“We didn’t fully understand how much we were riding a stock market and real estate bubble,” Roberts said.
Monaco is building both motorhomes and towable RVs. Wiley, the Navistar spokesman, was vague on production levels, saying it has “gone up somewhat.”
“We’re looking for a pickup in the market next year,” he said.
Navistar, based in Warrenville, Ill., is best known as the maker of International brand buses and heavy trucks, and Roberts said he’d like to see the company move some of that production out to Coburg. The proximity to the large California market makes an Oregon location attractive, he said, but there isn’t the supply network established here that there is for its Midwest factories.
The local RV companies weren’t the only ones hurt by the downturn. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) predicts companies will ship 159,500 units this year, down 40 percent from the 265,000 units shipped in 2008. Those numbers include both motorized and towable RVs.
As for 2010, Richard Curtin, the University of Michigan economist who does forecasts for the industry, predicts RV shipments will increase by 27% to 203,500 units.
Richard Coon, president of the RVIA, points to signs of a recovering economy, including a stronger stock market, slowing job losses, higher productivity, increasing home sales and rising manufacturing hours. But weak consumer confidence, continued high unemployment, and anemic consumer spending remain cause for concern, he said.
RVs, he said, “are woven into the fabric of America.”
High-end market survives
Marathon’s Schoellhorn said the high end of the RV market — the niche that his company occupies with its $1 million-plus custom bus conversions — “is still really, really challenging.”
“It’s better right now than it was a year ago, but it’s still way, way off from the highs of a few years ago,” he added.
Marathon built fewer than 20 coaches in 2008, compared to 70 or 80 per year a few years back.
“We really slowed down production” in 2008, Schoellhorn said. “We’re just starting to ramp up a little bit.”
Marathon, which is a privately held, family owned business, specializes in building high-end coaches, bought by race car drivers, professional golfers, actors and others who can spend $2 million for what Schoellhorn once called the “Ferrari” of motor homes. That rarefied niche has enabled the company to survive the recession, he said.
“Our niche doesn’t require the volume that a typical RV maker requires,” he said. “Even though things are bad, we can get by and even prosper with fairly minimal sales, while other companies need substantial volume.”
But the recession has hurt prospective Marathon buyers, he said.
“I put a lot of our customers and prospects in two categories: One group doesn’t have the money they used to because of lost investments; the other has it, but is afraid to spend it.”
“Every now and then I hear people express the view that the rich will always have money,” said Bill Conerly, a Lake Oswego consultant.
“It’s kind of true, but there are times when the rich don’t want to spend money.”
Comeback will take time
As the RV industry comes back, it will look different than the prerecession industry, experts say. The high end of the market in particular will take time to come back, said Frank Magdlen, a Portland analyst.
“It’s going to be smaller until times get better,” he said. “It might take three to five years for it to be what it was in ’06.”
Bob Lee is the godfather of the local RV industry, co-founding the company that became Monaco Coach in 1968, and starting the company that became Country Coach in 1973. He said that while lower-end RVs, such as trailers and toy haulers, will bounce back, he thinks the high end of the market — the niche that Country Coach carved out for itself — “is pretty much history.”
“The tribal knowledge to build high-end is going away fast,” he said. “With that gone, there’s no way to crank it back up again.
“It’s not just a production line product,” he added. “It’s not an easy program to just go out and build some of these. I’m not even sure I could put together a company that could build these at this point.”
Country Coach LLC today (July 31) released additional details regarding its corporate partnerships and company events.
Junction City, Ore.-based Country Coach announced that Recreation Live LLC is completing the immediate purchase of new Country Coach motorcoaches with a wholesale value in excess of $3 million to bolster its inventory, while the Country Coach partnership is finalized. Once the partnership is approved by the court, Recreation Live expects to own approximately half of the new Country Coach, according to a news release.
Country Coach also announced a new agreement with Lee Joint Ventures, lessor of a large portion of Country Coach’s campus in Junction City. Lee Joint Ventures is owned by Ron, Bob and Terry Lee, pioneers of Country Coach. The two companies have agreed on the preparation and execution of a new five-year lease on the Junction City campus property and facilities, subject to court approval.
“We are pleased to have reached these agreements with Recreation Live and Lee Joint Ventures, and are excited about what they mean for Country Coach’s future,” said Jay Howard, Country Coach president and CEO. “With our new customer parts support now operational and our upcoming Class Reunion Rally in Oregon in three weeks, Country Coach is gaining momentum.”
Howard noted that the company’s West Coast Class Reunion Rally is nearly closed for registration, and more than 300 Country Coach owners are currently scheduled to join the Country Coach management team in Albany, Ore., for five days of food, entertainment, fellowship and RV lifestyle learning opportunities.
Howard added, “It has been very gratifying to see the many stakeholders in Country Coach’s future be to supportive and work so hard to contribute toward the company’s recovery. I want to thank each and every one for their continuing contributions to our future success.”
The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis predicts employment will decline an average of 5.3% this year and drop 0.7% in 2010, according to The Register-Guard, Eugene.
It isn’t until the first quarter of 2011 that Oregon’s economy will see job growth of more than 2%, according to the forecast.
State forecasters predict that the struggling transportation equipment industry, which includes manufacturers of trucks, boats, railcars and RVs, will take the biggest hit to employment this year. The state predicts job losses of 28% this year, then 5% next year before growth of 3.4% returns in 2011.
Lane County had built itself into a center for RV production, but its two dominant manufacturers of luxury motorhomes, Country Coach LLC of Junction City and Monaco Coach Corp. of Coburg, sought bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Country Coach is operating with just 94 employees, down from a peak of about 1,800 workers in 2006, and Monaco terminated all of its 2,000 employees when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early March.
(Monaco was due back in a Delaware bankruptcy court today for the auction of its recreational vehicle division. Navistar International Inc. has offered $52 million for the business but company officials continue to decline to talk about why it has bid for the division and what its plans are. The court is scheduled to authorize the sale on Friday and complete the transaction on June 2.)
Other RV manufacturers nationwide are struggling. All manufacturers combined are forecast to ship 7,000 to 8,000 Class A motorhomes this year, said Frank Magdlen, an RV analyst with the Robins Group in Portland. Not long ago, Monaco alone shipped that many coaches in a year, he said.
“That’s how precipitous the drop was,” Magdlen said. He predicts that Lane County’s RV manufacturers will bottom out this year and begin a slow road to recovery in 2010 and 2011.
The industry’s return is predicated on consumer demand, he said. Consumers have to feel secure enough about their job prospects and finances to make the investment. Plus, financing has to be available.
RV financing should be stronger toward the second half of this year and back to more normal activity in 2010, Magdlen predicted.