Curt Yoder and Kermit Kropf are competitors. But, according to a report in the Goshen (Ind.) News, this past week they were also neighbors.
Yoder is co-owner of Kropf Industries and Kropf is president of Dutch Park Homes. Both companies build recreational park trailers in Goshen. And each company displayed their products at the National RV Trade Show.
Tucked in along the back wall of Hall 5 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC), the two displays were part of just a handful of park model dealers at the show.
“We are talking to existing dealers and getting orders from existing dealers. But overall, it seems attendance seems to be down,” Yoder said while standing in front of the park models that are designed to look like down-sized homes.
Yoder had three park models at the show. He said the company has recently earned its “green” certification because of the materials used building the units. He also said the company is always working to improve products.
“We are constantly coming up with new floorplans and tweaking our products to stay ahead of the design game,” he said.
Park model RVs are designed to be placed on a campground lot for extended stays of six or seven months. They are not used year-round, according to Kropf, because most states don’t allow permanent occupancy of campground sites.
Park models resemble small homes, with dining rooms, a linked kitchen and a master bedroom, and most have lofts converted to small sleeping areas for visitors and grandchildren. Many retirees use the models when going south for the winter. They are also popular with campground owners for rentals.
The Goshen News reported that demand from campground owners has helped stabilize the segment during the economic downturn.
Yet the industry has had a challenging time. According to the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Assocation (RPTIA), national shipment numbers for the last three years were 5,004 (2008), 3,307 (2009), and 2,891 (2010).
“Fortunately for us we have maintained a steady flow of business during the last few years of turmoil and it is steadily getting better. And we are looking for a better year in 2012,” Yoder said.
The Kropf company has been in Goshen since 1946 and employs about 50 people. Yoder is the third generation of family ownership.
Kropf explained the realities of the current buying patterns for the industry.
“People who have the money can get them,” he said. “People who want to finance them have a more difficult time.”
Dave Mockler, sales executive at Dutch Park, said the company displayed three models at the show, two 12-foot-wide models and one 81/2-foot wide model. And the interest from the dealers who stopped by were positive, he said.
“We have had a really good response from dealers this year,” he said. “I think we have had a better year this year than last and some signs show we will have an even better year next year.”
Larry Weaver, Dutch Park sales manager, added, “There is not as many people as we would like here. I think the open houses we had up in Elkhart County have put the crimp on us here.”
Kropf Industries Inc., a manufacturer of luxury park model homes, has been Certified Green by TRA Certification Inc.
According to a press release, the company’s building practices and materials have earned them bronze status and Kropf is now labeling homes with Certified Green labels. The Goshen, Ind.-based builder reached the requirements for the following evaluated categories: Resource Efficiency, Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality and Operation & Maintenance.
Kropf park model homes incorporate LED lighting, Energy Star refrigerators, low-flow toilets and sustainably harvested OSB. They also recycle cardboard, copper wire, aluminum and steel.
For more information on Kropf Park Models visit www.kropfind.com. For more information on green certification, visit www.certifiedgreenrvs.com or contact Mandy Leazenby at 1-800-398-9282.
Kropf Industries Inc., Goshen, Ind., built and has delivered 25 recreational park trailers for Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in Santa Claus, Ind. The resort calls them “Christmas Cabins” and will open them for rental starting June 15, according to a news release. These 25 new cabins feature a large loft, king bedroom, upscale appliances, a covered deck and Christmas décor. The decks include furniture and a built-in gas grill. The interiors feature an electric fireplace and three flat screen TVs with cable or satellite. Curt Yoder, vice president and co-owner of Kropf, valued the order at more than $800,000. Kropf, a third generation family business started in 1946, has been building park models for many years. Yoder called the Lake Rudolph order the company’s largest single campground order since the late 1990s. “Lake Rudolph has a large rental fleet. Up to now they’ve been all 8-1/2 wides. They opened up a section for 12-wides. We hope it grows into more business down the road,” he said. The company sells park models throughout the U.S. and Canada. Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort will open for its 53rd season on Friday (April 1). The closest lodging to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Lake Rudolph features 218 family lodging options, including rental RVs and cabins. The campground also offers 200 full-hookup RV sites, including 100 sites with concrete pads and 40 tent sites with water and electric. The campground opens daily on April 29.
The author of a book on the economic condition faced by the city of Elkhart, Ind., argues that local officials and businesses are more responsible for the area’s resurgence than federal stimulus dollars and programs, according to a news release.
“No Thank You, Mr. President” Author John Cohoat says the community didn’t enjoy the national spotlight during the recession as it struggled with layoffs in the RV industry and other manufacturing sectors.
Cohoat’s book examines 10 Elkhart County companies, including Jayco Inc. and Kropf Industries Inc., focusing on how they began, their keys to success and how they competed through the recession.
The following appears on the author’s website, www.nothankyoumrpresident.com:
This book is filled with inspiring stories from Elkhart County, Ind., (dubbed Unemployment Ground Zero by the national pundits). You will discover how real businesses stood up and decided to fight on their own to thrive in spite of our economic turmoil.
Known as the “RV Capital of the World,” Elkhart County, Ind., found itself mired in unemployment near 20% in 2009. Largely due to the gas crisis and financial meltdown conspired to cut off much of the business the region had relied on for years. Every week was met with more layoffs, plant shut downs, companies being sold and more bad news. Elkhart County was featured by FOX News, CNN, major networks, national newspapers and even on late night comedy as the center of our nation’s economic misery.
Right after President Barack Obama was inaugurated, he chose Elkhart County as the first place to sell his massive stimulus package. His message of hope may have rung true for some, but many Elkhart County business people decided that bailouts coming from the government couldn’t be the right answer. This book provides stories of how real entrepreneurs, businesses and community leaders rolled up their sleeves and worked to succeed despite the seemingly long odds.
This book has a message of hope based on American values of hard work, personal responsibility, celebrating success and reliance on the individual, not the government.
Here is a list of a few of the businesses whose story of success and hope will make you remember why America is the greatest Nation in history:
- An Amish machine shop with exceptional skills, inventive products and minimal use of new technology.
- A real estate entrepreneur expanding and looking for new opportunities in the housing crisis. He even decided to run for state representative.
- A hometown bank, holding true to their conservative policies and thriving despite the meltdown.
- The largest privately owned RV company gaining market share in a down market.
- A husband and wife team who created a sensational new product that is growing like crazy in the competitive retail gift shop market.
- A technology company flying under the radar, but growing and competing in well chosen niche markets the big guys aren’t interested in.
Special chapter on Recovering from the Recession. Ideas and practical advice on how you should be approaching the recession and why you can actually thrive right now.
John S. Cohoat is a business advisor to entrepreneurs and has owned several businesses. As he observed the negative stories about his hometown and talked with locals, John realized their stories needed to be told. John shares real hope messages of hope from Elkhart County. John is a first time author and writes from the heart and that in itself is a refreshing experience.
After enduring the biggest downturn in the history of the recreational park trailer business, several recreational park trailer manufacturers are reporting increased sales and renewed interest in their products, which are used by consumers as vacation cottages and by campgrounds as rental accommodations, according to a Recreational Park Trailer Industry Assocation (RPTIA) news release.
“It looks like spring is definitely going to be better than it was last year,” said Tim Howard, president and CEO of the Breckenridge Division of Damon Motor Coach, a Thor Industries Inc. company in Nappanee, Ind., that has long been one of the largest park model manufacturers in the country.
“In the past two months, we have seen a better market, a better demand for products, broadly, than we saw during the same period last year. This is an encouragement, certainly, because it was a long, painful ‘off’ season.”
Granted, Howard said his company’s backlog is still “not anywhere near what it would have been in normal times three years ago,” but it’s moving in the right direction.
“Several park trailer manufacturers are saying their orders are up at least 10% to 15% from where they were a year ago,” said RPTIA Executive Director William Garpow, whose association represents park trailer manufacturers. “Of course, park trailer shipments were down about 50% last year, so we’ve still got a long ways to go to get back where we were three years ago, but at least we’re heading in the right direction.”
Indeed, several Elkhart County, Ind., park trailer manufacturers say they are seeing a sustained increase in orders and inquiries this year, which they say bodes well for the future.
“Business is a little better than last year,” said Dave Burrows, national sales manager for Middlebury, Ind.-based Woodland Park. “It’s definitely not the 2006, 2007 or 2008 numbers. But consumer optimism and demand here over the last two months has started to increase, which is nice to see. Prior to that, dealers were extremely nervous and skittish about putting any product on their lots. Now they’re starting to see traffic coming in. My dealers are more optimistic this year than they were last year.”
“Sales are up nicely,” said Jim Foltz, general manager of Forest River Inc. in Elkhart.
Other companies say they are seeing even stronger business levels.
“So far this year, our business seems to be back to normal for us,” said Curt Yoder, vice president of Kropf Industries Inc. in Goshen, Ind. “There’s definitely much better activity and interest this year compared to last year. We’re running at full capacity now and we hope to continue that.”
Olin Wenrick, president and CEO of Elkhart-based Trophy Homes Inc. said his business is up, too, this year, but is still off about 50% from where it used to be. But Wenrick said he is optimistic about his business prospects this year. “We’re beginning the climb,” he said.
Other park trailer manufacturers across the country are similarly optimistic.
“Our park trailer business year-to-date is up over last year for January, February and March,” said Dick Grymonprez, vice president of marketing for Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas. “We’re encouraged that it’s going to be a better year.”
Grymonprez added that the biggest impediment to improving park trailer sales is the same impediment facing every other industry in the country: limited bank financing.