Earthbound Recreational Vehicles LLC has shut down operations and its assets will be auctioned off to repay a loan backed by the city of Marion, Ind., according to a report posted by the Indiana Economic Digest.
A billboard advertising the Jan. 15 auction is posted in front of the travel trailer company’s former factory in Marion.
The city of Marion acquired the assets when Earthbound failed to meet the obligations of an economic development deal. Earthbound President and CEO Charles Hoefer could not be reached for comment.
In 2010, the city backed a $2 million loan to help Earthbound’s startup and recently footed the bill when the company failed to make a $155,000 loan payment.
Mayor Wayne Seybold said the city was exercising its right to sell the company’s assets to pay off the loan before economic development income tax (EDIT) money is used to repay the remaining debt, which is the bulk of the $2 million.
“We’re auctioning off everything they have,” he said. “There are a lot of assets to auction off. We’ll get as much money out of it as we can.”
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Marion, Ind., which lured Earthbound RV from Middlebury in 2010, ranked No. 9 in the nation last year for cities its size in terms of attracting new production facilities.
For the sixth time since Site Selection Magazine began its Governor’s Cup rankings in 2003, Marion has made the list, this year as the ninth top “Micropolitan” in the United States. The magazine ranking of Top Micropolitans ranks cities of 10,000 to 50,000 within at least one county. Marion was credited with nine projects in 2010 that fit the magazine’s criteria, according to a news release.
It is the first Indiana Micropolitan community to make a top 10 ranking twice. The Site Selection’s 2010 Governor’s Cup was published in the March 2011 issue of Site Selection Magazine and on their website http://www.siteselection.com.
Earthbound President Dave Hoefer Sr. and his 60-employee company benefited from economic development tax breaks in moving to Grant County, located about 80 miles south of the company’s former plant in Middlebury.
Meanwhile, Indiana is holding its own in a national ranking of economic development projects. The magazine placed Indiana ninth in its annual ranking of states, based on total number of projects. That is up one spot from the previous year.
Click here to view the Micropolitan rankings.
Click here to view the Site Selection cover story.
Despite cold temperatures, a record number of people — 12,912 to be exact — walked through the gates Wednesday (Jan. 12) for the opening day of the 26th Annual 2011 Florida RV Supershow at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa Fla.
And early sales matched the crowd, according to several manufacturers who spoke to RVBUSINESS.com this morning.
”We’re doing fantastic,” said Ed Kinney, vice president of sales and marketing for Carriage Inc., Millersburg, Ind., ”We had record sales. If I told you the numbers, you’d call me a liar.”
”It was a slow start today (Thursday) because it was cold,” said Lance Wilson, executive director of the sponsoring Florida RV Trade Association. ”It was in the 30s this morning, but things picked up. People are here now and the sun is out. The only thing that keeps people away is rain, and we don’t have any of that.”
Wilson reported that the final count had 1,065 coaches on display at the show.
In addition to Carriage, other manufacturers also reported brisk sales early on in the show, which runs through Sunday.
”It’s a buying crowd,” said C. David Hoefer, chairman of Earthbound RV LLC, Marion, Ind. ”We had our first sale an hour after the show started on Wednesday.”
”The traffic is not only good in terms of quantity, but it’s quality traffic,” said John Sammut, Newmar Inc. vice president of sales and marketing. ”We had a good day yesterday selling several motorized units — both gas and diesel.”
Opening day, during which senior citizens received a discount, was capped by a FRVTA-sponsored dinner on the fairgrounds attended by about 800 people representing manufactuers and suppliers, who dined on roast beef, shrimp and key lime pie.
Show organizers expect more than 50,000 people to attend the show through Sunday. Last year’s attendance was 50,753.
Earthbound RV LLC is teaming up with the City of Marion, Ind., to sponsor a concert this Saturday night (Oct. 16) at the F. Ritchie Walton Performing Arts Center at Marion High School by ‘60s rock legend Mark Lindsay, former lead singer for ‘60s rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders.
Proceeds from the 7 p.m. Mark Lindsay Benefit Concert, tickets for which sell for $10, go to various charities in Marion, a blue-collar city hit hard by the recession to which Earthbound moved from Elkhart County earlier this year.
How did this all come about?
Earthbound President Dave Hoefer Sr., whose 60-employee company benefited from economic development tax breaks in moving to Grant County, about 80 miles south of the company’s former plant in Middlebury, said it all started when the ‘60s rock musician was shopping for a new recreational vehicle and happened upon one of Hoefer’s new upscale Earthbound travel trailers on the web.
“Well, Mark Lindsay was shopping for a unit and, quite honestly, he had been shopping and was going to buy an Airstream and then he saw our web page, and he drove to the factory after going through ‘Brand X’ and elected to buy one of our units,” said Hoefer, who developed the Dutchmen and Four Winds RV brands, among others, over the years.
“We didn’t know who they (Mark and Deb Lindsay) were at first,“ added Hoefer’s son, David B. Hoefer, vice president of sales and marketing for Earthbound. “We had no idea. They’re very down-to-earth people. We took them through he factory. We sat down with them. They put in a few requests — including solar panels and batteries because of Mark’s recording equipment — and obviously they had to find a dealer they could work with and basically just bought a unit like anybody else coming in.”
The Lindsays took delivery of their Earthbound, a line that retails from the mid-$40,000s to low $50,000s, about two weeks ago. “And they are traveling for the next two years in that 30-foot Earthbound, which they are calling ‘The Ark,’” said Dave Hoefer Sr.
Lindsay, whose more memorable ‘60’s hits with Paul Revere and the Raiders included “Hungry” and “Kicks,” keeps his fans up to speed on his latest adventures at national parks and so forth with a traveling blog on his web page. “When they (the Lindsays) get behind something, they get behind it wholeheartedly,” said Dave Hoefer Jr. “It was their idea to put on a benefit concert, and they wondered if we wouldn’t team up with them.”
Earthbound towables range in length from 25 to 30 feet and in price for a 30-footer from the “mid-‘40s to the low ‘50s,” depending on equipment. But that could change soon as the company plans on showing some things at the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., that will expand those standard specs “quite a bit.”
Earthbound RV LLC has begun production of its highly stylized, eco-friendly Earthbound travel trailer in 26- to 30-foot lengths, some with single slideouts.
”The materials we are using are either from the aircraft, marine or automotive industries,” said Earthbound Chairman C. David Hoefer. ”It’s virtually all-composite. There’s not one stick of wood in this unit anywhere.”
Prompted by incentives offered by the city and training grants from the state, Earthbound earlier this year moved 90 miles due south from Middlebury, Ind., to Marion, Ind. Lightweight Earthbound travel trailers feature axles that are installed through a specially designed frame to provide a lower center of gravity for easier towing.
The 26-foot floorplan has a dry weight of 4,140 pounds with a cargo capacity of 1,700 pounds. ”You don’t have to have a pickup truck to pull this,” said President Ken Geljac. ”(Many people) won’t have to go out and invest in a tow vehicle.’
The Earthbound travel trailer was on display last week during The Rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. Features include lightweight thermal-pane windows, pass-through storage, aluminum rear bumpers, exterior speakers, front and rear stabilizer jacks, one-piece fiberglass gel coat front and rear caps, aluminum-framed furniture, high-gloss composite cabinets.
MSRP: Under $50,000 for the 30-foot floorplan.
Several of the companies about which Bauer is seeking information are RV firms which received state incentives to expand or remain in the Hoosier state. The list includes Dometic Corp.in Elkhart, Earthbound RV LLC in Marion and Riverside Travel Trailers Inc. in Peru.
Letter from House Speaker Pat Bauer to Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob
Director Mitch Roob,
In reports to the media in March of 2010, you were quoted as “believing about 87%” of the jobs promised by companies receiving state incentives have actually been created. This, by your own admission, means 13% of the jobs that were promised were not realized. After inspection of the IEDC incentive compliance reports submitted to the General Assembly as required under IC 5-28-28-5, and published on the internet at http://www.in.gov/legislative/igareports/agency/iedc.html, my staff was unable to locate any finding of noncompliance in any IEDC compliance report.
Due to this discrepancy, please consider this letter my formal request, pursuant to the Access to Public Records Act (IC 5-14-3), for copies of any records evidencing the noncompliance you self-reported in March of 2010.
I am aware that your agency has refused to release various records relating to job creation incentives in the past. I am also aware that the IEDC has broad discretion under IC 5-14-3-4.5 to keep records relating to incentive negotiations confidential. As you may know K-12 education has been cut by $300 M. Some estimate that as many as 7,000 teachers will lose their jobs, and the state unemployment rate remains around 10%. In these times, I would urge the IEDC to exercise its discretion in favor of sharing vital information with Hoosier taxpayers about Indiana’s true level of job creation success.
In SEA 23-2010, sec. 14, the General Assembly passed a new statute, IC 5-28-28-9, that requires the IEDC, upon request, to make available information specifying each company’s compliance with its incentive agreement. In light of this new legislation, I would request that the following details be left unredacted in any noncompliance records you provide:
- The county where each company is or was expected to be located.
- Each company’s promised number of new or retained jobs.
- Each company’s actual number of new or retain jobs.
- Any state incentives each company received in exchange for the company’s job promises.
I thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
Speaker B. Patrick Bauer
Earthbound RV LLC has started production and hiring at its new manufacturing facility in Marion, Ind., according to the Marion Chronicle-Tribune.
The company currently has about 15 employees and hopes to hire 70 full-time workers within the year. In February, Earthbound RV announced it was relocating from Elkhart County and creating up to 300 new jobs by 2013. The Chronicle-Tribune reports the company has a $2 million sales backlog.
Earthbound RV is building eco-friendly towable recreational vehicles.
The production line is about 65% complete.
In the last 2 1/2 weeks, Earthbound says it has added six new dealers to its list. That brings its national dealer distribution network to 36.
After financial setbacks that caused Earthbound RV LLC to mothball operations in Middlebury, Ind., in the middle of 2009, the company and its unique ”green” towable products are getting a second chance 90 miles to the southeast in the blue-collar community of Marion, Ind.
And in the process, so, too, is high-profile entrepreneur C. David Hoefer waging another commercial comeback.
Key to the move: an infusion of $2 million in private capital, $900,000 in state tax breaks over the next five years and $100,000 in state training grants.
Earthbound expects to hire 60 people this year to build lightweight, eco-friendly Earthbound-brand travel trailers while creating a total of 300 jobs 2013.
”Financing in Elkhart County is tough, very tough right now,” Hoefer, Earthbound chairman and CEO, told RVBusiness. ”And, in Elkhart County, you are just another RV company.”
Contrary to popular belief throughout the RV industry, however, Earthbound did not go out of business, Hoefer reported. ”We didn’t actually close,” said Hoefer who has had a hand in founding a number of companies over the years, including Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. Hart Housing, Four Winds International Corp. and Pilgrim Inc. ”We kept operating. We just ceased production.”
The idea of moving to the Grant County community of Marion actually came last fall from one of Hoefer’s sons, Charles Hoefer, who works for the city park department, and was aware of the fact that Earthbound was looking for an infusion of capital.
”He said, ‘Marion is really looking for jobs. Would you consider (moving to) Marion?’ I said, I didn’t know why not. And about 45 minutes later, I got a text message that the mayor had told his people, ‘We want Earthbound.’ They put a full-court press on it.”
Within days, Hoefer said, the city had lined up five banks to meet with Earthbound representatives, and later the state was brought into the negotiations.
”I’ve never seen such an aggressive group that is more intensely focused,” Hoefer said. ”These gentlemen worked 10, 12, 14 hour days to get us down there and convince us that that’s where we belong.”
At the time of the announcement in mid-February, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels appeared in Marion and lauded the RV industry in general for its nascent recovery from the Great Recession. ”As expected, the RV industry is reinventing itself and starting to bounce back,” Daniels said. ”We couldn’t be happier to see the revolution happen here in Indiana, a state known for high-quality production and skilled workers.”
Hoefer said Marion’s manufacturing culture, which has sustained serious setback in recent years from both electronics and automotive industry closures, fits well with Earthbound. ”Their culture is like our company’s culture,” Hoefer said. ”They aren’t sitting in committees talking about things. They are action people. They are aggressive. They are looking toward the future.”
Wherever the company is located, Hoefer said that Earthbound’s basic premise has not changed since it was founded in November 2008: to build high-quality RVs out of composite materials that only recently have come into use in the RV industry.
”Being able to put automobile-type quality like you get in today’s Ford or GM product in a towable product … is our long-range goal,” he told RVBusiness. ”The entire unit is being constructed out of these (composite) materials.”
In so doing, Earthbound is taking its cues from the automobile, marine and aircraft builders, according to Hoefer.
”Everything we’re doing is not new,” he said. ”It’s been done in other industries. The application is different. To do what we need to do, you can’t do it with the same materials we’ve been using. If it weren’t for TekModo (LLC) helping me get started on this process seven or eight years ago, this could not have happened.”
The company, which also is being led by industry veterans President Ken Geljack and COO Bill Hughes, will build travel trailers in 22- to 30-foot lengths with $35,000 to $44,000 MSRPs with few options.
”It’s really starting over right now,” Hoefer said. Even though the prototyping is done and the product and material content is done, we are still working on second- and third-generation products that will be coming out in a year to two years.”
Contrary to rumors that have been circulating since the announcement of the Earthbound’s move to Marion, Hoefer maintained, the company is not for sale.
”In recent days, once they found out we had financing, others have become interested in us again,” Hoefer said. ”But it is not for sale and will not be sold. We are going to make it a nice company where people want to work and have fun and build product that we can be proud of.”
Earthbound RV LLC, a maker of fuel-efficient recreational vehicles, announced Tuesday (Feb. 16) that it will site a new manufacturing operation in Marion, Ind., creating up to 300 new jobs by 2013, according to a news release.
The newly established firm will invest in the purchase of new equipment and make upgrades to an existing facility in Marion, located 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis. The company plans to lease 92,000 square feet of the building for its assembly operations and headquarters. It will be moving from its facility in Middlebury, Ind., where it has operated since its founding in 2008.
“As expected, the RV industry is reinventing itself and starting to bounce back,” said Gov. Mitch Daniels. “We couldn’t be happier to see the revolution happen here in Indiana, a state known for high quality production and skilled workers.”
Earthbound RV’s travel trailers can weigh up to 1,500 pounds less than a conventionally designed RV and are made using recyclable, low volatile organic compound materials such as composites and aluminum. The company plans to begin production of its towable RVs in March.
“We are extremely excited to be moving to Marion. This wonderful opportunity would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Mayor Seybold and his terrific staff and the IEDC,” said Bill Hughes, Earthbound RV chief operating officer. “It became very clear to us that living and working in Marion was the right direction for Earthbound RV, and we look forward to a great relationship with the local community. We greatly appreciate the trust and confidence that has been placed upon us.”
Earthbound RV currently has seven models in development and an established network of dealerships located throughout the United States and in Canada. The company plans to begin hiring production associates as facility modifications are completed in the next 30 days. Earthbound RV expects to add 60 workers this year.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Earthbound RV LLC up to $900,000 in performance-based tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans. The city of Marion will provide additional incentives.
“Marion and Grant County have a wealth of highly skilled individuals necessary to carry out the quality and value goals already visible in the Earthbound product, we are thrilled to have won their business,” said Mayor Wayne Seybold. “This company will add to the diversity and growth that we have seen in our manufacturing sector and we are thrilled to grow jobs in our community by 300.”
Earthbound RV’s announcement comes just more than two months after recreational vehicle manufacturer, Riverside Travel Trailers, announced it would invest more than $1.1 million to expand its manufacturing operations in north central Indiana, creating 100 new jobs by 2011.
The Earthbound RV senior management team Include Ken Geljack, president, and Bill Hughes, COO, former executives of Four Winds RV, Fleetwood RV, and Dutchmen RV. Another strategic alliance is with technology company TekModo. (www.tekmodo.net )
The company also noted that having three Indiana Wesleyan University graduates in the company (two of C. David Hoefer’s sons and Earthbound COO Bill Hughes) played a significant role in the decision to choose Marion, where the university is located.
A new towable RV manufacturing company is now setting up shop at the former Travel Supreme Inc. facility on Ind. 19 in Wakarusa, Ind., and is gearing up to begin production soon.
A division of a larger, well-capitalized corporation, the new company, whose name has not been revealed, will be led by two former Thor Industries Inc. executives, RVBUSINESS.com has confirmed.
The 160,000-square-foot facility housed Travel Supreme, until it closed in April 2008.
The startup will make multiple product lines, including lightweight trailers.
Further details, such as the company’s name, were unavailable.
It is at least the fourth new start-up RV manufacturing firm in Elkhart County this year, joining the ranks of Heritage One, Fiber-Lite Corp. and Earthbound RV LLC.
This news also amounts to another positive development for Wakarusa, located in southwest Elkhart County, which has been decimated by the recession.
Earlier in the year, the community welcomed Electric Motors Corp., which announced plans to manufacture electric hybrid vehicles in partnership with Nappanee-based Gulf Stream Coach Inc. And in recent weeks, Monaco RV LLC, successor to Monaco Coach Corp., began rehiring employees to reoccupy Monaco’s Wakarusa facilities to build motorized and towable RVs.
Yet another RV manufacturer is entering the marketplace this week (March 26-29) with the debut of lightweight Earthbound travel trailers from startup Earthbound RV LLC at the Quebec City RV Show in Quebec City, Canada.
“One of our goals was to meet a demand that wasn’t being met for full-size lighter weight trailers that are ecologically friendly,” said Bill Hughes, Earthbound vice president of operations.
Founded in January, Earthbound RV is operating from a three-building, 108,000-square-foot manufacturing campus on U.S. 20 in Middlebury, Ind., once occupied by Pilgrim International Corp., which went out of business in September.
“There are approximately 11 million minivans and small-size SUVs on the road looking for something they can tow,” said Hughes, the former head of Pilgrim’s service, warranty and parts department. “Earthbound will be lighter weight, but we haven’t had the weights confirmed yet.”
Limited production of Earthbound travel trailers sporting aluminum superstructures and painted aluminum sidewalls laminated to a lightweight CosmoLite composite material from TekModo LLC is scheduled to begin next week.
“We took design cues from the automobile industry, particularly on the front and rear caps, and the full use of LED lighting,” Hughes said.
A prototype of Earthbound’s 29 1/2-foot “Golden Ridge” floorplan is being unveiled at the Canadian RV show.
“We expect that by June we will be producing 10 units a week,” Hughes said. “The market will dictate where we go beyond that.”
Earthbound RV currently has 16 employees and eventually expects to have 60 workers, Hughes said.
Earthbound trailers will be offered in seven 25- to 30-foot floorplans, four of which are available with a single slideout, brushed aluminum interior walls, dual-pane acrylic windows, aluminum appliances, U-shaped booth dinettes, laminated countertops, vinyl floors and heat pumps. Cabinets have a vinyl wrap laminated to a sheet of aluminum that is laminated to a polyurethane composite.
Earthbound RV also is exploring the use of adhesives not traditionally used in RV applications. “We are committed to innovation and we are developing resources toward that,” Hughes said.
Company principals are industry veterans Hughes; President Ken Geljack; Canadian RV dealers Andre Levesque of A.S. Levesque, Ste-Helene, Quebec; Ken Friedenberg and David Hill, owners of ArrKann Trailer and RV Centre, Edmonton, Alberta; and Elkhart, Ind.-area businessman Ted Holland. Former Pilgrim Chairman David Hoefer Sr., who originally launched the Dutchmen brand, is a consultant.
“A small group of us approached Dave (Hoefer) last fall and asked him to give us some insight,” Hughes said. “He allowed us to use some of the plans he had. Dave is a visionary.”
Hughes said the company has verbal commitments from about 40 dealers – half in the U.S. and half in Canada.
“We don’t need 200 dealers to be successful, and we don’t need to build 10 units a day,” Hughes said. “We are focused on providing quality beyond anything that’s been experienced in the past.”