Campgrounds Diversifying with Rentals

May 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The campground business has been the most resilient sector of the travel and tourism business throughout the recession. But it’s not just because campgrounds offer the most affordable vacation option, according to The Daily Exchange, Waterloo, Ontario.

“Campgrounds increasingly offer rental accommodations, so they’re no longer solely dependent on tent campers and RV owners,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), adding that roughly a third of America’s campgrounds now offer park model rental accommodations.

But most campgrounds aren’t building their own rental accommodations from scratch. In most cases, they are ordering factory-built cabins and cottages, which are being delivered to their parks just in time for the camping season.

Many of them look like miniature log or cedar-sided cabins. But these 400-square-foot units are actually recreational park trailers or “park models,” and are technically classified as recreational vehicles.

“They’re completely turnkey,” said William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), which represents park model manufacturers. “All the campground owner has to do is hook each unit up to the utilities and they’re ready to rent.”

And, perhaps best of all, since “park models” are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they do not require building permits in most jurisdictions, so campgrounds can literally order them over the phone and have them delivered to their parks within a matter of weeks.

“Manufacturers construct these units in factories to conform with approximately 500 safety requirements contained in the National Safety Standard for recreational park trailers,” Garpow said.

Industry insiders see the campground industry’s increasing investments in park models and other rental accommodations as a shrewd business move, particularly given rising fuel costs and the dramatic decline in towable and motorized RV sales in recent years as a result of the recession.

“To a certain extent, the campground industry has insulated itself from the economic downturn by installing rental units,” Profaizer said.

Indeed, by providing rental accommodations, campgrounds are drawing not only tenters and RVers, but anyone who would normally stay in a hotel or motel while they travel.

“With park model cabin rentals, we can appeal to families who don’t have to worry about going out and purchasing an RV or having a tow vehicle or whatever the case may be. They can just get in their car and come to one of our parks,” said Rob Schutter, COO of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts.

Campgrounds have been gradually investing in park model cabins and other rental accommodations for many years. But the focus on rentals has intensified in recent years.

In fact, the competition for campground business has become so fierce that park model manufacturers are facing increasing competition from RV manufacturers, who are now marketing some of their own products as rental accommodations for campgrounds.

For more than 13 years, in fact, the Breckenridge Division of Damon Corp. in Nappanee, Ind., was the only Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary that produced rental accommodations for campgrounds. Now there are four Thor subsidiaries vying for a piece of the campground rental business, with Topeka, Ind.-based CrossRoads RV, Goshen, Ind.-based Keystone RV Co. and Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream Inc. each competing for a piece of the campground accommodations business along with Breckenridge.

Some of the major campground chains, for their part, are busy working out exclusive arrangements with leading park model manufacturers, which are building custom-designed rental units for their parks.

Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries Inc., for example, is building units for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), while CrossRoads RV recently landed an agreement to build custom designed park models for Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. Another RV resort developer, Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, is working with Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas, to furnish its resorts with park models.

But while some see the growing demand for rental units in campgrounds as a result of rising fuel costs and declining RV sales, it also reflects significant sociological changes taking place across the United States, Profaizer said.

“Families are increasingly time deprived and the dynamics of the summer vacation have changed,” she said. “People are camping closer to home because they don’t have as much time off to take extended trips across the country. Oftentimes, both parents are working and their kids are often involved in extracurricular activities, which limit their ability to travel.”

In addition, she said, many families are finding that it’s easier and more convenient to rent a cabin for a weekend getaway than to spend their limited free time packing, setting up and taking down tent camping equipment. For others, she said, having a cabin rental gives them an opportunity to experience camping in the great outdoors even if they don’t have an RV.

Schutter of Leisure Systems said campgrounds are also finding that park model rentals are particularly appealing to women, especially mothers. “In our particular system,” he said, “one of the major decision makers is Mom. And Mom finds all the comforts of home in these units. That’s a big selling point.”

Thomas Heneghan, CEO of Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., also said park model accommodations have wide market appeal. “In today’s economy,” he said, “the park model extends the outstanding value and experience of the outdoor lifestyle to families who are either unfamiliar with tent camping or RVing or who prefer the conveniences offered by staying in a park model.” He added that park models “allow one to have all of the comforts and conveniences of home with the ability to have a change of scenery and reconnect with family.”

Park model manufacturers, for their part, find it behooves them to pay attention to campgrounds and their growing accommodations needs.

“Many of our manufacturers are literally racing to get these units in place in time for the summer camping season,” said Garpow of RPTIA, adding that the pre-summer rush can be a nail-biter for campgrounds, many of which have already booked the park models they have ordered for this summer.

Such is the case at West Glacier KOA in Glacier, Mont., which just received six park model cabins in late April. “We’re hooking them up to septic and electric utilities right now,” said park co-owner Theresa McClure, adding that five of the six units are already booked May 14, when the park opens for the summer camping season.

“It’s just crazy,” McClure said of consumer demand for park model cabins, which KOA markets as Kamping Lodges. “We could probably put in 12 and they’d all be booked.”

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Park Trailer Builders See Signs of Upturn

May 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

RPTIA logoAfter 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.

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Bridgeview Mfg. Ships First 10 Park Trailers

March 19, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

Bridgeview (interior)Bridgeview Manufacturing LLC, a new Elkhart, Ind., recreational park trailer manufacturer that began production in late February, has shipped its first 10 units.

”Our goal is to build a little more upscale park trailer — a stick-and-tin trailer but with more of a residential look,” said President and CEO Jim Brown, who formerly worked for Starcraft Inc., before serving as president of Elkhart-based park trailer builder Hy-Line Enterprises Holdings LLC.

Bridgeview is operating with 28 employees out of a 35,000-square-foot plant on Elkhart’s north side building park trailers in 15 floorplans in 38- to 42-foot lengths with up to four slideouts and a fiberglass sidewall option.

Features include residential furniture and appliances, 8-foot ceilings, Corian countertops, double crown molding, indirect lighting and staggered cabinets. ”We are looking for the feel of a $200,000 motorhome,” Brown said.

With options, the average price of a Bridgeview recreational park trailer will be about $26,500, Brown said.

Bridgeview has signed 12 dealers and will focus its sale efforts predominantly in the Northeast and Southeast. ”The very first unit we built, we delivered to Canada,” Brown said. ”We will expand sometime early next quarter into the Southwest.”

The company will retail its units through dealers, Brown said, rather than selling factory direct to consumers or campgrounds and resorts. ”Several of the RV dealers that we are going through have their own parks or are park-affiliated,” Brown noted.

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RV Park Operators Touting Park Model Rentals

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Manufacturers have long touted the merits of investing in recreational park trailers or “park models” as rental accommodations, which can generate anywhere from two to five times as much annual income as a typical RV site, according to a news release.

But while there’s no question that these units can generate significant revenue, private parks that go into the accommodations business also encounter additional costs, according to park operators who discussed the cost, management and marketing of park models Jan. 13 during CalARVC’s Education Day at Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort and Marina in California.

“Houskeeping has been a challenge,” said Michael Gelfand, president of Terra Vista Management, which rents 24 park models at Newport Dunes.

Gelfand said his company initially rented park models without linens, but later switched to a daily maid service, which he offers free of charge to his guests “to minimize the thrashing of the units.”

Gelfand said renters tend to take better care of their park model when they know someone will be coming in to clean the unit each day. Housekeeping staff can also alert management if the guest breaks something or causes damage to the unit so that they can be held accountable to pay for any damages before they leave. In this sense, the value of having a daily maid service goes far beyond that of simply making the beds or cleaning the unit, he said.

But not every park operator sees a need to offer daily maid service.

The Fountain of Youth Spa RV Resort in Niland, Calif., finds it worthwhile to provide weekly maid service for its seven park models, which it rents on a weekly and monthly basis, said Jolene Wade, the resort’s managing partner.

John Croce, managing member of Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Team RV Management LLC, whose properties include Yosemite Pines RV Resort & Family Lodging in Groveland, Calif., said his guests do not really expect or require daily maid service. However, he does provide linens for the park’s 26 park models and eight yurts, which collectively require about $30,000 worth of linens.

Each unit requires at least two sets of sheets, blankets, bedspreads and pillows, not only in case of loss or damage, but because it’s not possible or practical for park operators to quickly wash and replace the same set of linens in units when one set of guests leave at 11 a.m. and the next guests arrive soon after that. “At peak season in Yosemite Pines, we may turn 20 or 25 units a day,” Croce said.

Park operators who have large numbers of park models will also need to invest in commercial grade washers and dryers. “You can run maybe three to six park models and use your existing laundry. But once you pass six, you need commercial laundry equipment,” Croce said.

The park’s housekeeping staff needs will also vary, depending on the season, Croce said. In peak season at Yosemite Pines, for example, Croce has as many as 12 people handling housekeeping duties. “Sometimes we only need a half a dozen. Sometimes we need a lot more,” he said.

Croce added that park models should also be set up in “little villages,” Croce said, partly to keep them separate from transient RVers and partly to make it easier for housekeeping staff to maintain the units.

But while private parks take different approaches with maid service, park operators say it’s imperative to invest in high-quality units that can withstand wear and tear. “Don’t go for a stripped down version,” Gelfand said, because they won’t hold up.

Gelfand, Croce and Wade also offered other tips in terms of what park operators should ask for when they order park models for rental use:

  • Choose laminate flooring if possible. It’s more durable than linoleum, which can tear, and it’s easier to clean than carpeting.
  • Equip the units with instant hot water heaters. Standard water heaters are often too small for rental use.

Park operators who invest in durable units will be glad they did. Croce said he’s had units last nearly eight years at very high occupancy rates at Yosemite Pines and he doesn’t yet see a need to replace them. “I think their lifespan can go on for years if you maintain them,” he said.

Maintenance, from Croce’s standpoint, includes removing all of the furniture and thoroughly cleaning each unit once a year and replacing or repairing anything that is broken or needs attention. “In the mountains, you have to reseal the cedar every three or four years,” he said.

In terms of marketing park model rentals, Gelfand, Croce and Wade all said they generate most of their leads and bookings online.

“It’s essential to have online reservations,” Croce said, adding that parks need to invest in their websites and make it easy for consumers to find them easily through Web searches. “The more you get out there (on the web), the easier it is for people to find you,” he said.

Croce added that online reservations can generate cash flow for the park months before the guests actually arrive. “We’ve done great in February and had an empty park,” he said, adding, “If you have limited marketing dollars, invest in your website.”

Gelfand, for his part, said most of his marketing is also web-based. However, Gelfand has also hired a public relations consultant who promotes Newport Dunes in newspapers and magazines.

Gelfand and Croce also said that one of the key merits of park models is that they can turn “dysfunctional” campsites into moneymakers. In fact, Croce said the park models and yurts at Yosemite Pines generate as much income as all of the RV sites in the park combined. But despite their revenue generating potential, Croce recommended that park operators start with a small number of park models. “Start with two or three and let demand determine what you need,” he said.

At one point during the discussion, Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) asked the park operators attending CalARVC’s education Day if any of them had regrets about investing in park models. Not one park operator raised his hand.

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Park Trailer Seminar Set for Newport Beach Resort

January 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

CalARVC logoThe California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) reminds manufacturers, suppliers and campground owners located in the West to sign up for its recreational park trailer seminar scheduled for Jan. 13 at Newport Dunes RV and Waterfront Resort in Newport Beach, Calif.

A panel of park owners, operators and vendors will cover these issues:

  • Pros and cons of renting park trailers for vacation use, including marketing, usage policies, housekeeping issues and maintenance.
  • Pros and cons of long-term leases for seasonal/annual use, including marketing, policies on out-buildings, landscaping, age limits and upkeep.
  • How and whether to purchase or lease and financing considerations.

Speakers include:

  • John Pentacost, an attorney with Hart, King & Coldren, who will speak on the state’s eviction law for park trailers.
  • Brad Harward of California Housing and Community Development, who will speak on the state’s laws regulating park trailers, from park trailer design to installation.
  • William Garpow of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), who will provide an update on industry trends, new products and innovations.

The fee is $75 for the first attendee and $65 for each additional attendee.

Lunch will include brief introdutions from the program sponors. A tour of the resort’s park trailers also will be available.

For more information, contact CalARVC at (530) 885-1624.

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CalARVC Seminar Looks at Park Trailer Industry

December 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

CalARVC logoThe California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) will sponsor a day-long seminar titled “Everything & Anything You Need to Know About Park Trailers” Jan. 13 at Newport Dunes RV & Waterfront Resort in Newport Beach, Calif.

A panel of park owners, operators and vendors will cover these issues:

  • Pros and cons of renting park trailers for vacation use, including marketing, usage policies, housekeeping issues and maintenance.
  • Pros and cons of long-term leases for seasonal/annual use, including marketing, policies on out-buildings, landscaping, age limits and upkeep.
  • How and whether to purchase, lease and financing considerations.

Speakers include:

  • John Pentacost, an attorney with Hart, King & Coldren, who will speak on the state’s eviction law for park trailers.
  • Brad Harward of California Housing and Community Development, who will speak on the state’s laws regulating park trailers, from park trailer design to installation.
  • William Garpow of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), will provide an update on industry trends, new products and innovations.

The fee is $75 for the first attendee and $65 for each additional attendee.

Lunch will include brief introdutions from the program sponors. A tour of the resort’s park trailers also will be available.

For more information, contact CalARVC at (530) 885-1624.

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ON THE LINE: Garpow on Residential RV Trends

November 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Bill Garpow

Bill Garpow

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Among the more thought-provoking conversations we encountered at the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ (ARVC) 2009 InSites Convention and Outdoor Hospitality Expo this week (Nov. 9-12) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., involved exhibitor Bill Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association Inc. (RPTIA). Garpow, based in Newnan, Ga., voiced concerns in this brief interview about a creeping trend that most in this industry are well aware of by now: RV’s designed for leisure pursuits being used by a growing number of hard-pressed Americans as residences during the ongoing recession. Here’s the crux of that conversation:

RV Bill, we’re all aware of an increase in destination-style “camping” in units generally designed for longer term use. That’s a trend with which we can all live. But now we’re seeing news reports about people settling into recreational park trailers and conventional RVs for full-time habitation, which has caught many in this business off-guard. It’s an emerging trend, is it not?

Garpow: It is. The last thing in the world that a park owner wants to have is a school bus stopping at the front gate and picking up kids from his park. That’s the final warning call to a local unit of government. And it means approximately $6,000 to $12,000 per child that somebody has got to pay for in school taxes, property taxes. And they’re not getting it from the RV parks right now. That’s not to say that if the trend continues they won’t find a way to get it because they probably will.

RV That certainly couldn’t be viewed as a good thing for the recreational vehicle sector.

Garpow: We don’t want that — don’t need it, can’t use it. It would just increase the heck out of the cost of a camping site. If we want to maintain the industry the way it is, we’ve got to be very careful about allowing recreation vehicles to be used as residential property.

You’re talking about mixing good people who are using it (the RV) the way it should be used as a vacation and seasonal dwelling — people of stature, people of means that come to your park and they spend money while they are there and their kids have a great time. And when they’re done – or if they have a problem — they go home. They don’t leave that problem and put it on the local unit of government to try to solve it for them.

Quite frankly, they don’t have squabbles in the household, if you know what I mean. You don’t have the police department out there at 2 o’clock in the morning trying to straighten out a man and a wife that have gotten into a (loud) discussion.

RV You are frankly talking about something – the residential aspects of recreational vehicles – about which this business arena has always been quite wary. Certainly, your typical mainstream park operator wouldn’t want any part of it. Nor would the members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which has always tried to keep its distance from all this for a variety of reasons, especially with regard to federal standards pertaining to residential dwellings.

Garpow: The recession has kicked that particular use up, and we’re seeing more and more of it. Unfortunately, when a park owner lets that genie out of the bottle and has people in his park using it as a domicile, chances are pretty good that those folks aren’t going to mix real well with your standard camping family.

As a matter of fact, they will probably have an attitude because, after all, the way the full-time resident sees it, ‘I live here and you’re only here for a weekend or 10 days, and when you’re here, you’re a pest. You pull in to the campsite at 10 O’clock at night when I’m watching my favorite TV show and it’s disruptive and I don’t like it.’ It doesn’t take too long for our good camping customers to figure out that ‘we’re not really appreciated here anymore.’ And what are they going to do? They’re going to go some place else.

So, what is the campground owner going to be left with? He’s going to be left with a trailer park. It’s going to be full of people who are going to be living as full-time residents and it’s going to be very difficult to convert back to an RV park. So, you’re essentially talking about crossing that long-held divide between a “campground” and a “trailer park.”

Garpow: Kind of, except that you are going to be using less than a manufactured housing park (in terms of space and infrastructure) to do it. You are using something that is smaller, tighter and less expensive. And guess what? That’s the kind of folks you are going to attract — people that can’t afford anything else.

It frightens me, and the reason it frightens me is because, long term, we’re dependent on the local units of government to welcome recreation vehicle parks with open arms into their community.

They are an asset. People come from other locations, and while they are in that park, they spend money at the park and in the local community. They go out to eat and they buy gasoline and groceries and they entertain themselves. It has an economic impact on the community.

It was money that was earned someplace else, so it doesn’t take any jobs away from the local community. The economic largess is wonderful. In the past, that’s worked for us. But if you suddenly bring in people of lesser means who don’t have the capability to do any of these things, and they start sending kids to school and they start imposing on government services, suddenly the welcome mat is going to be pulled out from underneath us. Before we close out here, Bill, we probably ought to ask you about the current state of the recreational park trailer marketplace.

Garpow: We’re down about 55% from the high that we had for 12-wide units. Things are starting to pick up a little bit as they are for other segments. Some of the manufacturers have even got a little bit of a backlog, which is great news. I hope we don’t run into supplier problems. We may see some of that because we’ve never experienced a deep, long-term turndown like this before.

We’ve had some deep ones before. I remember back in 1979 during the gas crisis. That was deep, but within six months we were back where we were.

But this time, we’ve had some suppliers that have basically shut off their ability to produce and we may have some difficulty obtaining OEM parts. So, the recovery at this point is real?

Garpow: I think we’re seeing it. We still have a problem with financing. That’s going to take some time. We still have a problem with the consumer who lost a lot of their 401(k) in the market. But fortunately, some of that has come back. We’ve also had some people, worse than others, take a real hit in the value of their primary residence that could be as much as 40% in some cities. But in other locations it hasn’t been too bad. If you look at it, those places that experienced great galloping increases in the last 10 years or so (in real estate) are the ones getting hit with the great galloping decreases in value.

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Nine Park Model Companies Displaying at ARVC Show

November 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

insites09Nine recreational park trailer manufacturers will be displaying their latest units for the RV park and campground industry in the Park Model Pavilion at the annual InSites Convention & Outdoor Hospitality Expo Nov. 11-12 in Orlando, Fla.

The show is sponsored by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and will be held at The Rosen Centre.

The displaying companies are:  Airstream Inc., Athens Park Homes, Breckenridge Park Trailers, Cavco Industries Inc., Chariot Eagle Inc., CrossRoads RV,  Keystone RV Co., Skyline Corp. and Stone Canyon Lodges & Park Models LLC.

Meanwhile, in a related development, ARVC and Thor Industries Inc. announced in October that they have formed a strategic alliance to provide private park operators with exclusive prices on park models and travel trailer units specifically designed for use as rental accommodations at campgrounds.

“Three of Thor’s companies, Airstream, Breckenridge and Keystone, now offer unique lines of park model cabin and travel trailer units that have been specially designed to meet the durability needs of private park operators who are anxious to expand their offering of rental accommodations,” said Shane Ott, Thor’s director of campground relations.

Ott, who was previously president and COO of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), joined Thor last summer and developed the company’s rental accommodations initiative with ARVC.

“We welcome this exciting Thor program and feel that the favorable pricing and unique designs of these units will be very enticing for campgrounds, RV parks and resorts as they continue to diversify their business base with rental accommodations,” said Linda Profaizer, ARVC president and CEO.

About one-third of the nation’s commercially owned campgrounds, RV parks and RV resorts offer rental units to accommodate families and other travelers who don’t have an RV, but want to enjoy the Great Outdoors – and the numbers are growing.

“Private parks have long seen the merits of investing in park model cabins for use as rental accommodations, and now they have a chance to invest in both park models and travel trailers for on-site rental use at special prices that are exclusive to ARVC members,” Profaizer said. “Many travel trailer owners already leave their units at campgrounds and RV parks and use them as getaway cottages.”

Ott said this strategic partnership, the first of its kind involving ARVC and RV manufacturers, has enabled Thor to develop unique units using the input and experience of campground owners across North America.

The ruggedized features along with a variety of floorplans and cozy design elements offer campground owners durable units built to withstand the rigors of high occupancy usage. The lodging units featured in the promotion include four Breckenridge park models ranging from 22- to 36-feet; two Keystone travel trailers, including one 29- and one 37-foot model; and one 25-foot Airstream travel trailer.

Ott added that while the initial promotion involves Airstream, Breckenridge, and Keystone, additional Thor companies could become involved in the promotion in the future, depending on the level of private park interest.

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T.R. Arnold and Associates Inc. to Certify ‘Green’ RVs

August 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

T.R. Arnold and Associates Inc. – an internationally accredited certifier of quality management systems based in Elkhart, Ind. – now is turning its expertise to the recreational vehicle industry and the growing desire among manufacturers and consumers for environmentally friendly RVs and recreational park trailers.

Operating under the name TRA Certification Inc., the company already has demonstrated its ability to certify “green construction” in the manufactured and modular housing industries. It has to date certified five companies as green capable and is in the process of certifying several others.

Arnold founded his company in 1967; it now is an employee-owned company. Besides work with factory-built homes and buildings, it also offers a complete line of inspection and consultation services to the RV, cargo trailer and park trailer industries.

In order to certify a building or an RV as environmentally friendly, there would naturally have to be some sort of an industrywide consensus standard of what it means to be “green.” Although there is a consensus standard for the RV Industry, no green requirements exist. So, Tom Arnold, president of TRA Certification, said to implement a standard he turned to the National Green Building Standard to develop a standard — a consensus standard for single-family dwellings established by the American National Standards Institute, the Association of Home Builders and the International Code Council.

“We’re using this as a platform to implement the applicable parts of this for the recreational vehicle industry,” said Arnold. By using an existing standard developed through the consensus process, Arnold feels he is ensuring that any green certification his company makes is legitimately environmentally friendly.

The first step in the certification process is to certify the manufacturer is green-capable. “We go to the factory and we look at what’s going on with their processes,” said Arnold. That involves examining their recycling programs and manufacturing methods to ensure they are able to produce green compliant RVs. “We’re giving the manufacturer who is doing a good job recognition for what they do,” said Arnold.

The second step in the process is to examine the materials and appliances that go into making the RV.

Arnold said that any supplier can claim his materials are environmentally friendly, but “the engineer (at the manufacturer) does not have the time to do the research.” TRA Certification, he points out, does that for the manufacturer.

Arnold said TRA Certification is just now launching its green certification program and he fully expects to have many manufacturers certified by the end of the year. “We have proposals out to several park trailer companies now,” he said.

His staff for the company already is in place. Amanda Leazenby, who has professional accreditation in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the manager of the program. Clay Huth will serve as director of marketing, and Sherman Hansen is a green certification consultant.

For more information on TRA Certification’s green program, contact Amanda Leazenby at 700 W. Beardsley Ave., Elkhart, IN 46514, (574) 264-0745 or visit the company’s website at

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Fleetwood Extends Bid Deadline for Sale of MH Ops

August 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. has extended until Saturday (Aug. 8) the bid deadline on the sale of its manufactured housing unit.

The auction, should it be required in the case of competing bids, will be delayed similarly to Aug. 10, at 2 p.m. The final hearing to approve the sale will remain as scheduled on Aug. 12.

cavco-logoAs of Friday, Cavco Industries Inc., a manufactured housing and recreational park trailer manufacturer based in Phoenix, Ariz., and an investment partner, Third Avenue Trust Value Fund, have submitted the lone bid. The partners have offered $28.9 million for seven Fleetwood plants, trademarks and other assets.

Fleetwood filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 10. It has ceased travel trailer production and has already spun off most of its motorhome business to American Industrial Partners.

During an investors’ conference call last week, Cavco President and CEO Joe Stegmayer explained Cavco’s reasoning behind bringing in a partner to make the Fleetwood purchase. Each party would own 50% of the Fleetwood housing business. He called it “a prudent approach” and a way to conserve the company’s cash in these difficult times.

Despite recording a $1.5 million loss for the most recent quarter on sales of $13.6 million, Cavco is in “a strong financial condition” and has no long-term debt, he said.

“We want to preserve capital and have it available to inventory finance our distributors,” he said. “We have to be prepared for it (downturn) to continue for some time. This provides the opportunity to leave our balance sheet in a very pristine condition.”

All seven of the Fleetwood plants are operating but at a low level of utilization, he said. On average, each plant has the capacity to produce about 1,000 homes a year, he estimated. Cavco’s plants are operating at a 25% utilization rate, he added.

If successful, Cavco would take over the Fleetwood business “in a fairly short order” as it is Fleetwood’s intent to make a “fast transfer of assets,” Stegmayer during the onference call. The Fleetwood  name would be retained.

If the Cavco/Third Avenue bid fails, Cavco has other options, Stegmayer continued in answer to one investor’s question. “We don’t feel we need to do anything immediately, but we have looked at other projects,” he said.

When first announcing its offer on June 30, Stegmayer noted, “The Fleetwood brand is one of the strongest in the industry, and we are excited to have this opportunity to integrate Fleetwood’s strong family of product offerings with our own growing business.”

Third Avenue Management, the investment adviser to Third Avenue Value Fund, is a New York-based company with expertise in value and distressed investing. Third Avenue Management manages approximately $13 billion of assets for private and institutional clients. Most or all of Third Avenue’s proposed purchase will be made by Third Avenue Value Fund, the company’s flagship mutual fund.

Cavco and Third Avenue’s $28.9 million “stalking horse” bid is subject to execution of a definitive acquisition agreement (with customary conditions to closing) and bankruptcy court approval. The purchase price is subject to adjustment for the assumption of certain warranty liabilities and other customary post-closing adjustments.

The Fleetwood assets proposed for purchase include seven manufactured housing plants, one office building, all related equipment, accounts receivable, inventory, certain trademarks and trade names, intellectual property, and specified contracts and leases. The manufactured housing plants are located in Nampa, Idaho; Woodburn, Ore.; Riverside, Calif.; Waco, Texas; Lafayette, Tenn.; Douglas, Ga.; and Rocky Mount, Va.

The proposed purchase does not include the company’s operating plants in Alma, Ga., Elizabethtown, Pa. and Garrett, Ind. The facilities included in the proposed purchase currently employ more than 700 people in seven states.

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