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Huckabee Wins (More) Favor Among Industry Crowd

October 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former and likely future presidential candidate, sounded like a would-be RV enthusiast as he entertained a crowd of about 400 diners at the RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards last Wednesday (Oct. 7) at a dinner held in conjunction with the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) International Convention & Expo, at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

In fact, Huckabee — a two-time Arkansas chief executive who made a strong bid for the Republican nomination during the 2008 presidential election —credited an RV dealer for resuscitating his presidential campaign in its early stages.

“In the summer of 2007,” he said, “we were just about on fumes and were having to make a decision whether we would go ahead and go all the way to the Iowa straw poll — which was going to be a turning point for us. We were just about to the point where we had another week’s worth of funds, and then we were going to have to probably close up shop.

“Jack Sizemore, from Amarillo, Texas, one of your fellow RV dealers … has been a friend of mine for some 30-plus years. Well, Jack said ‘I’ll host a fundraiser for you in Amarillo.’ That was the summer of 2007. And it was that particular event in his home — it wasn’t huge like it was a multimillion-dollar fund-raiser — but it was enough. It kept us on our feet for another three weeks and kept us in the race. And we went on to come in second in the straw poll. That shook out several of the others, and we went on to win the Iowa caucuses and about eight or nine other states before finally Sen, McCain captured the nomination.”

A rumored contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Huckabee won a straw poll taken at the Value Voters Summit, an annual gathering of Christian conservatives, in September in Washington, D.C., easily outdistancing a field that included Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Alaska chief executive Sarah Palin and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

mh2A congenial celebrity to whom the industry crowd seemed to gravitate, the former Razorback governor followed his ’08 presidential bid with a nationwide tour to promote his fifth book ”From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 STOPS to Restoring America’s Greatness.” He’s also enhanced his celebrity status with a stint as host of the popular weekly show, “Huckabee,” on the Fox News Channel where the pundit’s conservative views resonate with many conservative Americans.

While the former Baptist pastor did share some of those conservative views with his audience, however, he didn’t spend the evening hammering the Democrats. Instead, it was his recollections of campaign motorhoming, mixed with a folksy blend of opinion and storytelling, that prompted repeated applause from the dinner crowd.

“In 2002, when I was running (for re-election) for governor, we bought an RV, a Class A diesel pusher,” he recalled. “We used that thing the whole year, I lived in it, slept in it overnight — we parked in RV parks — it was the greatest experience of my life. The best part was that I could take my dog with me, and the whole staff said, ‘You are so much more calm and wonderful to be around when you’re in that RV because the dog is with you and the dog just keeps your equilibrium set.’”

Huckabee went on to use a Class C coach during his presidential campaign, and noted that motorhomes also were put to good use not only during previous book tours but also one planned for November to introduce his latest tome. “The reason I tell you this is because I don’t want you to think that for me this is just a speech. I absolutely appreciate … how much an important part of the fabric of American life the RV industry is.”

mh3Huckabee, likewise, noted the relationship between the economic health of the RV industry and the country at large. “Most of us know that one of the first industries to feel the pain of a downturned economy is the RV industry, and one of the first to be an indicator that it is starting to come back will be the RV industry,” he said. “When recent numbers in the news started reporting that sales and manufacturing are beginning to rebound, frankly, that was great news — not just for your industry. That was great news for all of America. And I’m hoping that those numbers continue because it’s in all of our best interests to have an economy that once again lets families enjoy the time that they can spend together.”

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RVB to Honor Top 50 RV Dealers at RVDA’s Con/Expo

October 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

RVBTop50Logo-smallWith the recreational vehicle industry often leading the nation in and out of economic downturns, economists are watching closely a recent upsurge in wholesale RV shipments as a good sign that the U.S. economy is on the path to recovery. That’s the positive atmosphere in which this year’s 2nd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards dinner and reception will be held Wednesday evening (Oct. 7) during the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) annual RV Dealers International Convention at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The awards are presented by RVBusiness, a leading trade journal published by Affinity Media, not only for the demonstrated survival skills of these 50 dealerships during one of the deepest U.S. economic downturns in memory, but also for the continuing commitment of these U.S. and Canadian retailers to professionalism, civic involvement, association activities, best practices and, more than anything else, consumer care.

The RVBusiness staff in August first announced the selections for the second annual Top 50 awards, based on nominations from North American RV manufacturers. A volunteer panel of industry veterans in August then concluded its review of dealer applications in the RV-building center of Elkhart, Ind.

“We had an overwhelming response from our manufacturer nominees this year,” said RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg. “The number of applicants received was about 40% more than what we had in 2008. So, before judging even started, we considered this year’s program a success, and that was largely due to the many quality dealerships submitting applications. Because there were so many worthy RV dealers who applied, it was a much more difficult selection process this time around.”

RVBusiness Top 50 dealers are not ranked, although 10 Blue Ribbon retailers are singled out for special recognition and a Dave Altman Award for lifetime achievement in RV retailing and exceptional corporate citizenship will also be presented to one of the Top 50 dealers at the awards dinner.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Former – and possibly future – Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is slated as the keynote speaker at this year’s event. In his current role as a Fox News talk show host, Huckabee in March taped an episode of his “Save Our Town” series in Elkhart, Ind., a northern Indiana city where the U.S. RV business is centered that has garnered more than its share of national media attention this year for the recession’s impact on its businesses and residents.

“Given the current national political climate and the ongoing debate between the two political parties – and the ways in which these debates directly impact the recreational vehicle industry, we consider Mr. Huckabee an excellent and thought-provoking choice for an enjoyable evening in Las Vegas,” said Goldenberg. “And that goes for industry people of all political persuasions – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or otherwise.”

Underwriting this year’s program are RVB’s “Leadership Alliance” sponsors for 2009, including “platinum” co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, Utah; Blue Ox, Pender, Neb.; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, Minn..; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, S.C.; RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, Va.; and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, Ind.; and “Gold” sponsor Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, Mo.

Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members, Con/Expo exhibitors and Top 50 dealer guests) are available at the convention or through the following registration link (http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).

To view the complete list of the Top 50 dealers and to learn more about members of the Leadership Alliance, visit www.RVBusiness.com.

About the Top 50 RV Dealers Program:

The program’s purpose is to showcase credible role models and establish best business practices benchmarks at the retail level of the RV industry in terms of staff training, performing warranty and service work, managing aftermarket stores, superior consumer care and being good citizens of their respective communities. The dealerships were selected among those nominated as the best by the nation’s RV manufacturers. The program was founded and coordinated by RVBusiness magazine with additional support provided by the Leadership Alliance.

About Affinity

Affinity is the nation’s largest provider of outdoor clubs, services, media and events that service the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American recreational vehicle  and outdoor enthusiast market. By providing information, insights, and resources, the company champions the fun, freedom, and adventure of recreation in motion. The company works to enhance its customers’ recreational experiences and build the communities that share and promote their fun and adventurous lifestyles.

 Affinity is organized into four different business units – Affinity Media, Affinity Clubs, Affinity Events and Affinity Ventures. Their corporate headquarters is located in Ventura, Calif. Subsidiary operations and divisions can be found at multiple locations throughout the United States.

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Brand Committees, Huckabee Boost RVDA Con/Expo

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

RVDA convention logoWith the value of industry networking and problem-sharing escalating on the heels of the Great Recession, recreational vehicle retailers have an added incentive to attend this year’s RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, Oct. 6-9 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas: RVDA’s Brand committees.

Created in late 2007 by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) board of directors, the committees first convened at the 2008 Con/Expo to bring together dealers who carry the same manufacturers’ brand in an effort to improve dealer-manufacturer business relationships. Ten of the 13 committees are scheduled to gather during the upcoming four-day program.

“Brand committee face-to-face meetings and telephone conference calls provide opportunities for discussing topics in a candid and confidential manner with the goal of finding all-win, cost-effective solutions to industry-wide problems,” noted RVDA Director of Industry Relations Jeff Kurowski in the September issue of RV Executive Today. This has proven especially true during the past year, as manufacturer and dealer closings and an influx of new OEMs has altered the industry’s landscape.

His remarks were echoed by Jeff Hirsh of Campers Inn of Kingston, Kingston, N.H., chairman of the KZ Brand Committee, which conducted a telephone conference in July following the 2010 KZ RV product introduction at the company’s Shipshewana, Ind., headquarters. “Brand committees are a true partnership that will allow us, dealers and manufacturers, to mature together,” he said.

Among the brand committees that have scheduled meetings at the Rio during the upcoming Con/Expo:

Tuesday, Oct. 6:

  • Heartland: 2:30 to 3:45 p.m., Tango Room
  • Damon: 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. Lambada Room

Wednesday, Oct. 7:

  • Jayco: 9 to 10:15 a.m., Tango Room
  • Winnebago/Itasca: 9 to 10:15 a.m., Conga Room
  • Dutchmen: 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., Tango Room
  • Starcraft: 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. Conga Room
  • KZ RV: 2:30 to 3:45 p.m., Tango Room
  • Monaco/Holiday Rambler/R Vision: 2:30 to 3:45 p.m., Conga Room
  • Keystone: 4 to 5:15 p.m., Tango Room
  • Fleetwood Motorized: 4 to 5:15 p.m., Conga Room

An array of seminars have also be scheduled for the 2009 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo in addition to open and proprietary workshops interspersed throughout the event. Among them is a workshop focused on helping dealers learn the ins and outs of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Dealer Floor Plan Pilot program and a two-part “Compliance Super Session” intended to provide up-to-date information on safety and compliance issues faced by dealerships.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

On the evening of Oct. 7, morever, the Rio will be the site of the 2nd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards cocktail party and dinner, honoring the best RV dealerships across North America. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and an apparent front runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Huckabee, 53, a star in conservative circles and host of the No. 1-rated weekend program on the Fox News Channel, served as Arkansas’ chief administrator from 1996 to 2007 and earned a number of accolades during that time, including being named as one of Governing Magazine’s “Public Officials of the Year” for 2005. Time Magazine also honored him as one of the five best governors in America. In 2008, he ran for president and, while unsuccessful, established a national following in the process for his soft delivery, muscial bent and populist style.

The winning Top 50 dealerships, previously announced in RV Business magazine and on RVBUSINESS.COM, were selected based upon the dealers’ overall focus on professionalism, association activities, civic involvement, best practices and consumer care. During the awards presentation, 10 of those 50 will be further recognized as Blue Ribbon retailers — and one of those 10 will be chosen as the 2009 Dave Altman Award honoree for lifetime achievement in RV retailing and exceptional corporate citizenship.

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RV Business Announces 2009 Top 50 Dealer Awards

August 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

rvbtop50logo-smallRV Business today (Aug. 31)  has announced selections for the 2nd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards, which are based on the nominations of North American RV manufacturers and are to be presented on the evening of Wed., Oct. 7, at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.

A volunteer panel of industry veterans concluded its review of dealer applications on Aug. 21 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., keeping a keen eye on dealers’ overall focus on professionalism, association activities, civic involvement, best practices and consumer care.

Above all, RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg maintains, the mission of the Top 50 program is to continue to remind individual dealers – and the industry at large – of the intent and specific recommendations of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence and, beyond that, to give attendees at the Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association’s (RVDA) Con/Expo a chance to relax and reflect on a year that was trying at best.

“We had an overwhelming response from our manufacturer nominees this year,” said Goldenberg. “The number of applicants received was about 40% more than what we had in 2008. Before judging even started, we considered this year’s program a success, and that was largely due to the many quality dealerships submitting applications. Because there were so many worthy RV dealers who applied, it was a much more difficult selection process this time around, and, unfortunately, we weren’t able to include everyone who applied.”

“The judges did take a very good look at all the application materials dealers sent in, and it was a very close race,” adds BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates Inc., whose Mishawaka, Ind.-based agency oversees the application process for RVB. “We encourage all participating dealers, whether they were selected or not, to reapply next year.”

RVB Top 50 dealers are not ranked, although 10 Blue Ribbon retailers are singled out for special recognition. In addition, a Dave Altman Award for lifetime achievement in RV retailing and exceptional corporate citizenship will also be presented to one of the Blue Ribbon dealers at this year’s RVBT50 dinner at which Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, the former — and possibly future — Republican presidential candidate  will be keynote speaker.

“Given the current national political climate and the ongoing debate between the two political parties — and the ways in which these debates directly impact the recreational vehicle industry  — we consider Mr. Huckabee an excellent and thought-provoking choice for an enjoyable evening in Las Vegas,” said Goldenberg. “And that goes for industry people of all political persuasions.”

The following U.S. and Canadian retailers are the recipients of the 2009 RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards (in unranked, alphabetical order):

  •      Aberdeen RV Center, Aberdeen, MS
  •      Aloha RV, Albuquerque, NM
  •      Altman’s Winnebago, Carson, CA
  •      American RV, Grand Rapids, MI
  •      Apache Village RV Center, Hazelwood, MO
  •      ArrKann Trailer & RV Centre, Edmonton, AB
  •      Beckley’s Camping Center, Thurmont, MD
  •      Big Country RV, Bend, OR
  •      Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall, NC
  •      Boat N RV Superstores, Rockwood, Tenn.
  •      Can-Am RV Centre, London, ON
  •      Carolina Coach & Camper, Claremont, NC
  •      Coachlight RV, Carthage, MO
  •      Coates Trailer Sales, Columbus, MN
  •      Colonial Airstream, Lakewood, NJ
  •      Crown RV, Conyers, GA
  •      Curtis Trailers, Portland, OR
  •      Dandy RV Superstore, Anniston, AL
  •      Dixie RV Superstore, Newport News, VA
  •      Dodd RV, Yorktown, VA
  •      General RV, Wixom, MI
  •      Giant RV, Montclair, CA
  •      Greeneway Campers, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
  •      Guaranty RV, Junction City, OR
  •      Hilltop Trailer Sales, Fridley, MN
  •      Ketelsen Campers of Colorado, Wheat Ridge, CO
  •      Kings Campers, Wausaw, WI
  •      Lazydays RV Supercenter, Seffner, FL
  •      Little Dealer Little Prices, Phoenix, AZ
  •      Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores, Santa Fe Springs, CA
  •      Modern Trailer Sales, Anderson, IN
  •      Mount Comfort RV, Greenfield, IN
  •      Parkview RV, Smyrna, DE
  •      PleasureLand RV Centers, St. Cloud, MN
  •      Poulsbo RV, Kent, WA
  •      Quality RV, Draper, UT
  •      Reines RV Center, Manassas, VA
  •      Richardson’s RV, Sun City, CA
  •      Rick’s RV Center, Joliet, IL
  •      Roy Robinson RV, Marysville, WA
  •      RV America Inc., Johnstown, CO
  •      Steinbring Motorcoach, Garfield, MN
  •      Tennessee RV Sales & Service, Knoxville, TN
  •      Terrell Camping Center, Terrell, NC
  •      Thompson Family RV, Davenport, IA
  •      Tom Johnson’s Camping Center, Marion, NC
  •      Topper’s Camping Center, Waller, TX
  •      Trafford’s RV, Center Conway, NH
  •      Veurinks’ RV Center, Grand Rapids, MI
  •      Woody’s RV World, Red Deer, AB

Building on last year’s format, which appears to have worked rather well for those involved, RV Business Top 50 Dealer Award honorees will be promoted in the national press, in dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages and websites — of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines: RV Business, Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.

Underwriting this year’s program are Platinum co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, UT; Blue Ox, Pender, NE; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, AZ; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, MN.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, SC, RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, VA, and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, IN, while Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, MO, is a Gold sponsor.

Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members, Con/Expo exhibitors and Top 50 dealer guests) are available through RVBUSINESS.com’s registration link (http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).

“All in all, we can’t imagine that anyone attending the RVDA Con/Expo wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to mix with Mr. Huckabee and their industry peers at the cocktail party prior to our dinner and to hear Mr. Huckabee speak on the hot topics of the day at the dinner itself, regardless of their political persuasion,” said Goldenberg. “And, of course, we’ll honor our dealers, one by one, at the dinner as well, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the professionalism for which we’re trying to help raise the bar in this industry.”

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Huckabee Highlighting RVB Top 50 Dealer Awards

August 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Despite the headwinds of 2009, RVBusiness is turning the corner on the second annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards after having gone to manufacturers earlier this year for nominations of their best dealers in terms of consumer care, civic involvement and general professionalism.

A number of applications are in hand and a host of nominated retailers, as has been the case for so many business people this year, are currently scrambling to submit theirs. “I can report at this point that things are going well,” says RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg, who is overseeing the second annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards program on behalf of the industry’s flagship trade journal. “And we’ll continue to flex with the times and bend that deadline to get as many of those last-minute applications as we can before turning them over later this month for review by our panel of experts.”

The Top 50, like last year, will be not be ranked in any sort of order, says Goldenberg, but will be presented as a group in alphabetical order at a reception and dinner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 7, during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, sponsored by the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).  But five of the Top 50 will receive special recognition as Blue Ribbon dealers and one above the rest receives the Dave Altman Award, which goes to an exceptional corporate citizen.

 Appearing as keynote speaker at this year’s dinner is former – and possibly future – Republican presidential candidate and Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, who will more than likely have a few things to say about the current economic and political landscape.

“All in all, we can’t imagine that anyone attending the RVDA Con/Expo wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to mix with Mr. Huckabee and their industry peers at the cocktail party prior to our dinner and to hear Mr. Huckabee speak on the hot topics of the day at the dinner itself, regardless of their political persuasion,” said Goldenberg. “And, of course, we’ll honor our dealers, one by one, at the dinner as well, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the professionalism for which we’re trying to help raise the bar in this industry.”

The bottom line of the Top 50 program, he maintained, is to continue to remind individual dealers – and the industry at large – of the intent and specific recommendations of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.

 ”I don’t think there is ever a bad time to be talking about excellence and customer service and treating people right, especially customers,” said BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, the Mishawaka, Ind., agency that is again working with RVBusiness on the Top 50. “So, whether it’s a good economy or a bad economy, this is a good program and helpful to the industry.”

Underwriting this year’s program are RVB’s “Leadership Alliance” sponsors for 2009, including “Platinum” co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, Utah; Blue Ox, Pender, Neb.; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, Minn.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, S.C., RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, Va., and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, Ind., while Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, Mo., is a “Gold” sponsor.

Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members and Con/Expo exhibitors) are available through RVBUSINESS.com’s registration link (http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).

Online versions of the applications can be downloaded by linking directly to http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-top-50-dealer-application/

Building on last year’s format, which appears to have worked rather well for those involved, RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award honorees will be promoted in the national press, in dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages – and on the websites — of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines, RVBusiness, Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.

However, publicity is only part of the incentive for participating in this bar-raising national promotion, says Thompson.  “In talking with different size dealers last year, whether they be small, medium or large-size dealers,” said Thompson, “we did get some distinctly different responses. The smaller dealers were surprised that they were genuinely in the running to be recognized for their attention to customer satisfaction. They appreciated having the opportunity to be recognized for their hard work and their investment in customer service.

“The medium and larger dealers seemed to have their own unique set of issues in assuring good customer service and excellence in their operations,” added Thompson, who will be joined in hosting the event by Jim Sheldon, a Monaco RV LLC executive and current chairman of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Because they were larger, they weren’t able to have that one-on-one experience as principals because of their size. It was a unique challenge to them to drive down their values to the people in their dealer operations who were working with customers, whether it was sales or service or otherwise. It would take a lot of work and investment on their part to have that personalized service on a larger scale. So, to be recognized for actually accomplishing excellence on a larger scale for them was also satisfying.”

Leveling the playing field again this year is the fact that larger multi-store retailers, regardless of how many locations they have, can have only one store recognized in the RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award program.

“It was satisfying for those of us who were involved in the development of the program to see that most dealers were genuinely appreciative of having the spotlight put on them,” added Thompson, current chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee. “I think it’s always a good thing to put a spotlight on people who are doing things right and doing them well. Recognizing outstanding achievement in customer service and dealer operations not only lifts the dealership, but when they are spotlighted and shown off to the world, it lifts up the entire industry.”

 

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