As many as 2,000 people lined up Saturday (Aug. 28) at a factory that used to be one of Inland Southern California’s manufacturing hubs, hoping for a job with a company trying to revive what has become a moribund Southern California industry, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
MVP RV LLC, which recently bought two Riverside facilities once part of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s operation, held a job fair Saturday, looking to hire 80 people to start work next month. MVP RV will probably add 150 more people in October and continue to hire incrementally into next spring, the peak season for RV sales, officials have said.
Earlier in the week, the company’s officers anticipated 1,500 people would line up to fill out applications. That threshold was reached by 11 a.m., two hours before the job fair was scheduled to end. Also, about 1,000 had submitted résumés before the event started, said Pablo Carmona, the company’s vice president of manufacturing.
They had also asked that only people who know the recreational vehicle industry apply, and there is no shortage of them in Inland Southern California. As many as 3,000 people once worked for Fleetwood, which also made manufactured homes, in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Fleetwood filed for bankruptcy in March 2009.
Many others made RVs for Thor of California in Moreno Valley and National RV Holdings Inc. and Weekend Warrior Trailers Inc., both of which were in Perris. All of those companies have closed in the last three years, victims of a poor economy.
Saturday’s event had elements of a reunion for former Fleetwood employees, but Joe Rivera, who had been an engineering technician for 23 years at Fleetwood, saw the size of the crowd and knew he was facing a numbers game.
“My chances are not good, but it depends on what their needs are,” said Rivera, 49. “I’m not sure if they need an engineering department, but maybe there’s something for me.”
Another person looking for work had even more experience. Robby Crean is the grandson of John Crean, the legendary founder of Fleetwood who died in 2007. The younger Crean had worked for his father, Johnnie, who started his own company, Alfa Leisure Inc., in the 1970s. At 39, Robby Crean has essentially been in the RV business all his life.
Alfa Leisure, which had been based in Chino, went out of business in 2008. Robby Crean held several management positions with the firm and said the industry can make a comeback.
“If you start with the lower-end products and build up from there, that’s the way to come back,” Crean said.
The industry started to slide about four years ago because consumers became wary of high gas prices, but the bottom fell out when housing prices stopped rising and homeowners no longer had the equity to spend on RVs.
MVP, which makes towable trailers, was started in Moreno Valley in 2008 by three industry veterans and, after finding a new financial backer, was able to buy Fleetwood’s old plants for $18.6 million in cash in a bankruptcy sale. The company is eyeing overseas markets, especially Asia, for its RVs.
Brad Williams, the CEO, said MVP’s models are designed to be shipped in containers, making them easier to export.
“I’m not sure what the others in the industry are doing,” Williams said. “But we think there are great opportunities in Asia.”
Not all the applicants were veterans of the RV industry. Inland Southern California’s unemployment rate was 15.1% in July, one of the highest of any metropolitan area in the country, and people looking for work say they’re willing to be creative.
Cheryl Garcia-Wood, 52, of Riverside, has been unemployed for almost 18 months and came out early Saturday hoping for anything.
“Jobs are hard to find, but we’re out here doing our best,” Garcia-Wood said. “I see a long line of people, but it’s like playing the Lotto. If you don’t play, you can’t win.”
At least 1,000 people are expected to apply for fewer than 100 jobs at MVP RV LLC’s job fair Saturday (Aug. 28) in Riverside, Calif., and executives of the company are suggesting that only people with experience in the industry attend, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
MVP RV, which has been making towable trailers at the former Thor of California factory in Moreno Valley since 2008, announced earlier this month it has purchased two adjacent Riverside facilities formerly owned by Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., which filed for bankruptcy 17 months ago.
MVP will leave Moreno Valley and move to the Riverside complex in mid-September, said Roger Humeston, MVP CFO. Company officials want to add 80 people to its current work force of about 110 right now and add more over the coming months, eventually getting up to about 800 employees.
With the loss of Fleetwood and other RV companies, there are hundreds of skilled workers who used to make RVs in the area. Humeston said he’s been approached in church by people he doesn’t know offering their résumés, and he thinks as many as 1,500 people could show up on Saturday.
“We’re starting to get nervous,” Humeston said of the anticipated crowd. “People keep coming to our door in Moreno Valley wanting to apply. It’s getting spooky.”
MVP is stressing that they want people with at least three years of experience in the industry to apply. The company is looking to hire assemblers, welders and material-handling personnel as well as financial and administrative specialists.
“We’re going to have to be selective,” Humeston said. “We don’t have too many openings and unfortunately we can only take the cream of the crop right now.”
Humeston said he invited area companies that manufacture RV-related materials to recruit, but said those suppliers won’t commit to adding people yet.
MVP secured financial backing several months ago and bought the former Fleetwood facilities for $18.6 million in an all-cash deal. The Moreno Valley facility will be put up for sale.
Tom Powell, partner in Riverside-based Pacific Coachworks Inc. and, like Humeston and his MVP partners, a former Thor of California executive, said he likes MVP’s prospects “if they’re well capitalized, and it appears that they are.”
Powell said the market in Southern California is weak, but is improving in the Northwest and Canada and is also getting better in Asia.
“I hope they succeed,” Powell said. “The more manufacturing we have down here, the better it is for all of us.”
Moreno Valley, Calif.–based MVP RV LLC has announced the hiring of Kevin Coleman as sales manager for its fifth-wheel division.
Coleman brings with him over 15 years of RV experience, including sales and management positions with Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Skyline Corp., according to a news release.
“Kevin has the product knowledge and dealer relationships needed to help drive our emerging fifth-wheel division,” said Scott Degnan, MVP vice president of sales and marketing. “We are very fortunate to have someone with Kevin’s drive and determination join our team. Our first priority is going to be to re-establish those key dealer relationships we once enjoyed, and I can think of no one better equipped to do just that than Kevin.”
Coleman will be leading MVP’s fifth-wheel division from its new facility in Riverside, Calif. The 36-acre complex was once occupied by Fleetwood’s motorhome division, and houses a state-of-the-art full paint facility, and almost 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
Coleman stated that his immediate focus will be on the western region of the country and western Canada
MVP RV, a Moreno Valley, Calif.-based company that tried to enter the electric car market last year, plans to hire hundreds of workers to staff two former Fleetwood Enterprises plants in Riverside, Calif.
MVP plans a job fair Aug. 28 and wants to bring in 80 new employees to start work in September, Brad Williams, CEO of the company, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
The company hopes to add 150 more positions in October and incrementally hire people over about six months until it employs as many as 800, company officials say. Currently about 110 people make towable RVs at MVP’s factory in Moreno Valley.
Now, company officials are gambling that they will be ready to sell more trailers when the recession-ravaged public, which has not been spending on big-ticket items, is ready to buy again.
Williams said MVP needs assembly-line workers, administrative and human resources personnel, financial managers and others. Thousands of people in Southern California used to make RVs but lost their jobs when companies such as Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., National RV Holdings Inc. and Weekend Warrior Trailers Inc. went out of business in the past three years.
“As our volume increases, we’re going to be hiring people from all walks of life,” said Roger Humeston, MVP CFO and corporate secretary. “There are a lot of people out there with the skills, and they’ll be thrilled to see an RV company come back.”
Humeston added that the people who used to make RVs understand that the sales market is still at a low point. But he said when the market improves, so will the lives of MVP’s workers.
The deal for the former Fleetwood plants, on Fleetwood Drive and Via Ricardo, closed escrow Friday, said Finn Comer, senior vice president with Lee and Associates, the broker representing Fleetwood’s bankruptcy trustee in the sale. MVP bought the two buildings for $18.6 million, Comer said.
Fleetwood, once the Inland area’s only Fortune 500 company, filed for bankruptcy protection in March 2009. The two buildings encompass about 460,000 square feet.
“Those buildings are very well outfitted” for making RVs, Comer said.
Williams, Humeston and Pablo Carmona, the chief operating officer, are all industry veterans who started MVP two years ago, at the factory that used to make towable RVs for Thor of California. MVP was forced to shut the plant in 2009 but reopened in March after securing new financing.
About a year ago, MVP created a wave of optimism in the area when it announced a deal with CT&T United, a South Korean firm, to manufacture small electric cars at its Moreno Valley facility. That deal stalled, and MVP found another investor to help the company revive its RV operations.
Redlands-based economist John Husing said that in its heyday Fleetwood drew other RV manufacturers to the area. This, in turn, drew companies that sold supplies to the industry, and if MVP can duplicate even a small part of that, the region would benefit.
Husing said his concern is the state of the RV market. Sales have been dismal for more than three years, ever since home prices began to decline and most homeowners could no longer refinance their houses and use the money on an RV.
“If they’re going to manufacture RVs, and if there’s a market, then it’s really good news,” Husing said. “The question is how fast the RV business will recover.”
Despite the huge drop in sales, analysts say they’ve seen small signs of recovery recently.
Williams said MVP plans to market its products abroad as well as domestically. The company recently displayed products at an RV show in South Korea, he said, and Stropkai said that despite the perception of the RV as an American phenomenon, there is growing interest globally.
“I know there are markets out there,” Stropkai said. “A lot of manufacturers go to Europe and Australia now, and I know China is starting to get interested.”
Moreno Valley, Calif.-based MVP RV has agreed to buy two factories once used by Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. for $18.6 million, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
Fleetwood Enterprises filed for bankruptcy in March 2009. Since then, the company sold off its RV and manufactured housing divisions as well as factories it owned across the country. The company expects a final bankruptcy plan outlining what its creditors are owed to be approved before the end of July.
The two plants, located north of downtown Riverside off Market Street at 2350 Fleetwood Drive and 5300 Via Ricardo, sit on 36 acres and have 460,000 square feet of space.
According to a legal filing, the offer of $18.6 million, or about $40.43 a square foot, was Fleetwood’s best offer.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the sale to go forward earlier this month.
The property had been used as collateral to secure a $27.3 million loan from ISIS, a lender which will receive the proceeds from the sale.
The deal is expected to close before Aug. 1, according to a legal filing.
MVP RV had shut down its Moreno Valley plant in the middle of 2009 where it built travel trailers and reopened it in March after receiving funding from an overseas investor.
An agreement MVP RV had to build electric vehicles for South Korean firm CT&T stalled earlier this year.
Officials at MVP RV said negotiations are ongoing.
Brad Williams, CEO of MVP RV, wouldn’t say why his company is interested in buying the plants or if the purchase would affect MVP’s operations in Moreno Valley.
“We can’t comment on it right now,” Williams said by phone.
American Industrial Partners, a New York equity firm which bought Fleetwood’s RV division for $33.2 million in mid-2009, had rented the Riverside manufacturing facilities through November of that year, said Amy Coleman, a spokeswoman for Fleetwood RV, now based in Decatur, Ind.
The new company, known as Fleetwood RV, moved all of its operations to Indiana except for an office it leases in Corona for the company’s chief financial officer, accounting staff and marketing employees, she said.
Moreno Valley, Calif.–based MVP RV LLC has announced the hiring of Scott Degnan as its new vice president of sales and marketing.
Degnan brings with him 25 years of RV experience which include president and vice president positions at Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., National RV, Alfa, and Coachmen Industries Inc. (now a division of Forest River Inc.).
“Scott brings with him a wellhoned, market-driven focus to the company. His enthusiasm, market savvy, product knowledge, leadership and outstanding dealer relationships will enable the company to build on the successes of its past as well as forge new ones,” said Brad Williams, MVP president and CEO. “We are very excited about having Scott lead our sales effort.”.
Degnan will build and lead a team to manage all sales of all MVP RV products nationwide. The US Census Bureau reported that the top five growth states in the U.S. are in the West and Southwest. With that growth projected to increase through 2025, and over 32% of new recreational vehicle registrations in the U.S. falling within the 11 western states, Degnan stated his team will have an immediate focus on the western region of the country.
“MVP has strategically planned the timing and placement of this comeback,” said Degnan. “With the industry demand and need for quality production on the West Coast, MVP will be well-positioned to build a strong dealer network and meet the needs of those dealers from both a product offering and freight (cost) perspective.”
Degnan went on to say, “The RVIA is expecting shipments to jump 30% this year. We plan to be a huge part of that growth with exceptional support and service to our dealers, aggressive sales training, inventory management and market analysis, and the most innovative products in our industry.