30 Vehicles in Hilton Head ‘Life on the Road’ Display

August 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

concours_delegance_logo1The Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival plans to introduce an interactive display of more than 30 vehicles called “Life on the Road” at its Motoring Midway show field from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1.

The display will depict a century of camping and living along the highway in recreational vehicles, trailers, motorhomes and off-road vehicles, according to the Hilton Head Island Packet.

The exhibit will include several contemporary and antique motorhomes, including a 1927 Auto Kamp Trailer featuring a portable gramophone for campsite entertainment, a 1936 Curtis Aero trailer attached to a custom 1938 International truck, a vintage 1962 Airstream with its 1955 GMC tow vehicle, the amphibious TerraWind coach and a 1929 Studebaker RV.

The exhibit will also include off-road safari and military vehicles.

Details and tickets:

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Sacramento’s RV Brokers Inc. to Close Next Month

August 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 rv-brokers-inc-logoRV Brokers Inc., which has been selling recreational vehicles in Sacramento, Calif., for a dozen years, announced Tuesday (Aug. 4) that it will close its doors in September, according to

Owner Lino Catabran said in a news release that he’ll shutter the store because sales and revenue have declined for two years.

“We’re feeling the recession like everyone else,” Catabran said in the release. “We did everything possible to continue to serve new and existing customers, but there frankly hasn’t been enough of either to keep going. It’s a tough decision, but one that needed to be made.”

Catabran started the business online in 1997 as an RV broker, and opened a store two years later. He grew to three locations with sales, parts and service staff of nearly 40 employees. As recently as 2005, RV Brokers had annual sales of about $15 million, Catabran said in his release.

“We’ll concentrate on liquidating our existing new and used RV inventory as well as all parts, shop equipment, forklifts, racks and shelves,” he said in the release. “We will provide our customers with parts and service as long as our doors are open.”

Catabran, a Sacramento native, added that he appreciates his customers’ loyalty during his 12 years in business.

“I always felt I wasn’t selling RVs. I was selling fun,” he said.

Catabran, a former member of the Natomas Fire Department, took a job selling RVs in 1992 as a temporary step with plans of getting his real estate sales license.

“It turned out differently,” he said, “and I’ve loved the experience and the customers I’ve been fortunate enough to have served. But economic conditions make it clear that it’s time for a change, and we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.”

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Incentives Key to Moving Dometic Corp. Plant to Elkhart

July 22, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

dometic-thesignofcomfort2The biggest economic development announcement to hit the city of Elkhart, Ind., since the recession began quietly slipped in the back door Monday night (July 20) at a meeting of the Elkhart City Council.

There, it was revealed that Dometic Corp. was moving production of an RV refrigerator from Sweden to Elkhart later this year, bringing with it 241 new jobs.

“We’re happy it’s Elkhart. We’re happy it’s America,” said Douglas Whyte, Dometic president, in an interview the next day with RVBusiness.

The plant could have been relocated to China or Mexico but is coming to Elkhart because of Whyte and his management team, who see real advantages in moving the plant to within 50 miles of 70% of Dometic’s customers.

Also credit the city of Elkhart, which is providing hefty tax abatements or phase-ins, and the state of Indiana, which is provided unspecified training grants.

The Dometic operation will move into a 150,000-square-foot warehouse on the Dometic campus in Elkhart and feature a combination of manual and robotic equipment that is being moved from Sweden. Whyte said some $5 million to $7 million in equipment will be located to Elkhart from Sweden over the next three to five years, and an additional $3 million to $5 million in facility improvements will be made to retrofit the warehouse for the new production.

The Elkhart Truth  front page story on Tuesday (albeit secondary to the appearance of Miss America at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair the day before) was the first official word on the new jobs.

Dometic already has a presence in Elkhart, namely about 60 employees working in warehousing, customer service and human resources.

Whyte deferred further comment on the nature of the product and its manufacture and any sales projections until after the Elkhart City Council casts its final vote Aug. 3 on the 10-year, property tax phase-in. But suffice to say the operation will be high tech and require some skilled workers up and down the production line.

Dometic will sponsor a job fair in September to begin the hiring and training with production beginning in November, Whyte said.

The average blue collar worker wage will be $11.70. But high-paying new jobs will be created, from welding to engineering, production management and assembly.

Whyte hopes to tap the local labor supply and should have no problems, what with the community’s jobless nearing 20%. “My preference will be to pull these people from this area,” he said.

Whyte, who appeared at Monday’s city council meeting, said the incentives Elkhart offered “made a compelling story for why Elkhart.”

“The mayor and the state’s representatives were absolutely fantastic to work with in helping us through the process, and in negotiations everybody was professional. It was a nice  business arrangement so it meant a lot of sense to us,” he said.

The company plans to invest $500,000 in real property improvements, as well as $9 million to $12 million in personal property investments including the new equipment, according to city documents.

Through the phase-in, Dometic will save about $66,000 in real property taxes and $689,680 in personal property taxes. The company would pay $102,000 in real property taxes and $787,580 in personal property taxes over the life of the abatement,according to The Truth.

City officials estimate the jobs created will produce about $675,000 in local income taxes over the 10-year period. Dometic expects to retain about 12 full-time jobs in addition to the 241 new positions.

The company makes refrigerators, awnings, air conditioners and other products for the recreational vehicle and marine industries. Dometic Group’s international headquarters is in Solna, Sweden.

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Vancouver OK’s Temporary Olympic RV Parks

July 21, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Recreational vehicles will be allowed to stay overnight in parking lots at Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks in Vancouver, British Columbia, during the Winter Olympics next February, the Vancouver Park Board decided Monday (July 20). 

The board voted 4-1 to approve a staff recommendation to allow roughly 365 RVs to park for $95 per night, despite residents’ protests, according to the Vancouver Sun

Green Party Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon was the lone opponent.

The city sent information about the proposal to 460 homes near the beaches, and received 23 e-mails, letters and phone calls opposing the move, with just three communications in favor. 

“We were confident that the business case was a good one,” said Vision Commissioner Aaron Jasper. 

“The RVs are coming, and this is a way for us to do our part to help with the logistics of the Olympics, and to do this in a controlled way that has minimal impact to Vancouverites.” 

The city will pay Duckworth Management Group Ltd. $134,832 to manage the sites. 

According to the staff report, the only RV site close to downtown is the Capilano RV Park, which had a waiting list of more than 100 people as of February.

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RV Campers at Glacier National Park Up 35%

July 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


Glacier Lake panorama

Glacier Lake panorama

After a down year in 2008, visitation numbers at Glacier National Park are on the rebound, propelling the park to a strong January through June period where visitor numbers were up more than 14% from the same time last year, according to the Flathead (Mont.) Beacon.

The National Park Service (NPS) Statistics Office reported that 327,572 people entered the national park last month, up 14.1% from about 287,000 visitors in June 2008. May was also a busy month for Glacier, with visitation up 20% from the May before.

In all, the NPS says 484,458 visitors flocked to Glacier during the first six months of the year. “Comparing month-to-month, we’ve been up so far this year,” Wade Muehlhof, a public information officer with the park, said. “That’s a good sign for the rest of the summer.”

In the early 1990s, the park enjoyed a robust period where its visitors topped 2 million for four consecutive years. Since then, however, annual visitation numbers have only hit that mark twice, including the 2007 season where there were 2,083,329 guests. 

So far, though, this year appears to be back on track — good news for the businesspeople of Flathead’s tourism industry who rely on Glacier as their perennial ace to draw summer visitors.

“The Glacier Park numbers are our indicators,” Dori Muehlhof, executive director of the Flathead Convention and Visitor Bureau, said, adding that lodging businesses are reporting solid bookings for July as well.

Damage from a huge avalanche that swept across the Sun Road in early January threatened to keep the popular scenic road from opening on time again. But road crews had travelers on their way by June 26. Gas prices have stayed considerably lower so far this year as well, hovering around $2.60 per gallon last week as compared to about $4.17 the same time last year. Good weather and a lack of fires has helped, too.

Park officials also attribute the increase partly to the fact that people can tailor their Glacier trips to their budgetary constraints.

“It does provide an affordable way to vacation,” Wade Muehlhof said. “People are able to choose more carefully how they spend their money.”

Year-to-date park statistics back up that theory. Overnight stays in the park’s lodges decreased about 1% in the first six months of this year compared to last year. Meanwhile, the number of people staying in tents and recreational vehicles increased 21% and 35%, respectively, up to 15,400 and 18,984 people. 

“There’s a term out there now that’s ‘staycations,’ people vacation close to home,” Wade Muehlhof said. “I think that’s exactly what those numbers reflect.”

Yellowstone on Record Pace

Meanwhile, Yellowstone National Park is on pace for a record-setting year. More than 1.3 million travelers flocked to the park during the first six months of this year. 

In June alone, about 644,000 people entered Yellowstone, up 8.5% from the same time last year. It was the only time in the park’s history besides June 2007 when visitors exceeded 600,000 for the month.

Year-to-date, the number of recreational visitors in the nation’s first national park is up 9.3% from last year.

As both parks enter the height of their summer seasons, July and August, park officials and the businesspeople who rely on the national landmarks to fill their registers with summer tourism dollars are hoping the early summer trends continue.

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IMHA/RVIC’s Midwest RV Super Show’s in Doubt

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

mwslogo1For 54 years, dealers and manufacturers in Elkhart County, the RV Capital of the World, have gathered their motorhomes and towables in a central location and opened the gates to consumers from the serious buyer to the merely curious.

Whether the Midwest RV Super Show and Rally will happen for the 55th year, however, remains in doubt, according to The Elkhart Truth.

Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) has canceled the August dates — the time the dealer show has been typically held — but is still considering holding the event in mid-September. Problems with wholesale lending, consumer credit and consumer confidence are dampening the market for recreational vehicle and have put the show in limbo, said Mark Bowersox, director of RVIC.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the industry has hit bottom and we’re recovering,” he said. But the council will have to determine if the level of growth can sustain a show in the fall.

As an indication of the upheavals in the industry, Michiana RV, the former Coachmen factory store in Elkhart, and DiMartini RV, the former Monaco Coach Corp. sales lot in Wakarusa, have closed since the two dealerships participated in the 2008 Midwest show at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Dealerships that are struggling would probably not be helped by the event, said Gary Miller, owner of Wana RV Center in Shipshewana.

Although sales are made, RV shows usually provide dealers will long-term leads that eventually turn into sales, he said, noting customers have walked into his showroom and bought a unit two years after they attended the Midwest show. Consequently, a dealer worried about next week’s bills will not care about delayed returns.

Hank Schrock, owner of Total Value RV in Elkhart, said having the show is “absolutely important.” Along with bringing people to town who want to buy RVs, the show injects some competition among the local dealers which, Schrock said, is healthy.

Within the next couple of weeks, RVIC hopes to make a decision about having the show in September.

Skipping the event would not tarnish the RV Capital’s image, said Diana Lawson, executive director of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, explaining that in today’s economy, consumers are very forgiving. In fact, having a show with few dealers and poor attendance could do more damage.

“If we can’t do at least as well as we did last year, probably the best thing to do is let it rest,” Lawson said. “Then try it when we can do a good job and do the industry proud.”

Recent local RV shows did not unveil new models as they once did but, Bowersox said, the annual event gave the customers the opportunity to see many of the latest RVs side by side from multiple manufacturers without having to drive from one dealership to another.

Since the Midwest show may not happen, Miller and Schrock are planning their own shows to lure customers and spark sales. Miller has targeted Aug. 14 and 15 while Schrock is waiting to see what the Midwest RV Super Show does before solidifying the dates for his Fall Foliage Festival.

“I don’t believe you can sit here and do nothing,” Miller said. “You have to keep moving forward and that’s what I’m doing.”

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German Battery Maker Plans Michigan Investment

July 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


Gov. Jennifer Granholm

Gov. Jennifer Granholm

Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm — returning from a 48-hour investment mission to Germany and Belgium — says fortu PowerCell GmbH will soon begin a search for a battery pack manufacturing site in west Michigan pending approval of state and local incentives, according to the Manufacturing & Technology eJournal.

The company has identified several potential market areas, including vehicle, battery back-up systems for cell phone transmitters, power-generation plants and niche recreational vehicles.

Granholm met with fortu company leaders, along with other business executives who are looking to expand their presence in the United States or are seeking international investment opportunities, according to a news release.

“There is no better place in North America than Michigan for an international battery-cell company to expand its global reach,” Granholm said. “We look forward to partnering with fortu as part of our strategic plan to become the advanced battery capital of the world and diversify Michigan’s economy.”

fortu was founded in 1997 to concentrate on battery technology characterized by its high energy per unit of weight, long operational life, and avoidance of environmental concerns relative to its manufacture and disposal. 

It was unclear how big of an investment the project would be or how many jobs would be coming to Michigan.

While in Belgium, Granholm also met with Hansen Transmissions, the world’s second-largest producer of wind energy gearboxes, to pitch Michigan as a possible location for the company’s service and repair facility.

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RV Maker Sees Pent-Up Demand in Western U.S./Canada

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

After facing an uncertain financial future, Riverside, Calif.-based Pacific Coachworks, a travel trailer manufacturer founded by two former executives of Thor California in July 2006, is returning to full production, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The company, which builds the Tango and Tango Twist brands of travel trailers and fifth-wheels that can be towed, laid off most of its 150 employees in December. Executives plan to rehire 85 workers immediately. Tom Powell, founder and CEO, said he’s confident the travel trailer market will see a rebound in the fourth quarter, but “we’re still going to remain staffed as though it doesn’t,” he said.

He expects to have his full staff back by spring to work at the company’s 66,000-square-foot factory, he said.

The nearly 60 dealers in the Western United States and Canada that the company still sells its recreation vehicles to have reported a pent-up demand for trailers, he said.

“The feeling now of most people is, ‘OK, I’ve been through the worst recession since the Great Depression and I still have my job, my camper is still old and needs to be replaced,”‘ said Powell, adding that lending for trailer purchases has loosened.

At its height, the company employed 187 workers who were building 10 to 12 trailers a day. Now the company can manage to make a profit by building just four to five trailers a day, he said.

Powell, a 32-year RV industry veteran, said he had hoped to restart production by February or March but, despite having orders, he didn’t have the capital.

His company’s fate may have been much different had he not made a private stock offering that closed on June 30 and gave him the funding necessary to stay open.

Powell wouldn’t say how much was raised.

“There are a lot of people who are optimistic about 2010,” said Jeff Kurowski, director of industrial relations for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). But they’re not unrealistic, he said.

Industry forecasts indicate that the next year will see an increase in shipments but won’t exceed the volume of shipments in 2005 and 2006. Financing remains a challenge both for dealers seeking loans to buy new models to sell and for customers who have to put more money down, sometimes 20%, on trailers and motorhomes than they did prior, he said.

Kurowski said dealers are saying they’re running low on inventory and would like to order more if they can get loans.

There were 128,100 conventional travel trailers shipped in 2008 and another 57,000 fifth-wheel trailers, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The trailers accounted for 78% of the total recreational vehicle market in 2008.

Only 3.7% of all conventional travel trailers and about 4% of fifth-wheel trailers were built in California, according to the group.

Powell said 24 of his competitors have left the industry in the past two years — including Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. in Riverside, which filed for bankruptcy March 10 and sold its trailer division.

“There are dealers scrambling to replace Fleetwood products and Weekend Warrior products and 22 others,” he said.

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Salt Lake City Suburb OK’s Home-Based RV Rentals

July 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Recreational vehicle owners in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, can now rent out their RVs as part of a home-based business, according to the Deseret News, Salt Lake City.

The city council changed the code to allow rentals with a unanimous vote on Tuesday (July 7) after resident John McEvoy approached the city about wanting to rent out his RV.

All-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and large RVs are included in the ordinance.

The home rental business cannot cause extra street parking and cannot violate current noise and code violations.

A last-minute change allows the renters to leave their cars on site when they take the vehicles for recreation.

For more information, download the staff report at



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RVs Receive Fair Treatment in NBC Reality Show

July 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

trip_clip“The Great American Road Trip,” kicking off Tuesday night (July 7) on NBC, put recreational vehicles in the national spotlight by featuring seven families vying for a $100,000 first prize in a Survivor-like journey in a fleet of RVs along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

And while nearly identical Fleetwood Bounder motorhomes were the centerpiece of the program, most of the hour was taken up by non-RV related campground activities and games designed to reward one family and remove another from the contest in a format similar to countless other reality TV Shows.

Accordingly, one family reaches the ”End of the Road” each week as the others travel on to tourist attractions and vacation spots along Route 66.

Contestants include a geographically and ethnically diverse group of young families — each with two kids: the Katzenbergs from Connecticut, the Pollards from Alabama, the Ricos from Texas, the Favereys from New York, the Montgomerys from California, the Cootes from Illinois and the DiSalvatores from New York.

Hosted by Reno Collier, the show features seven families who take off from Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, in identical Fleetwood Class A motorhomes provided by El Monte RV, each emblazoned with a family’s name on the side.

”This is not a race,” Collier told the group. ”This has nothing to do with the destination. This is all about the journey.”

After leaving Chicago, they drove pretty much single file — although a couple did ”race” each other at speeds over 70 mph — to a campground in Springfield, Ill., where the kids played football and the adults cooked outdoor meals and introduced themselves to each other — a basically appealing portrayal of their motorhome experience.

That said, other than the fact that a couple drivers had some initial difficulties in adapting to their vehicles — and some squeamish moments for the DiSalvatore family in emptying their holding tanks — the general treatment of the motorhoming aspects of this TV series was rather positive.

A contest at the Illinois State Fairgrounds at which they ran an obstacle course while collecting ”votes” in a presidential contest overseen by ”Abe Lincoln” was won by the Coote family. Their prize: an outdoor dinner on a Mississippi River bridge near Madison, Ill.

In Tuesday night’s ”End of the Road” challenge, three families with the smallest ”vote” total in Springfield faced off near the St. Louis Gateway Arch rolling a large plastic ball with a family member strapped inside through a series of six small arches.

The Katzenberg family lost the challenge and was sent home.

Still, after spending only two nights driving from Chicago to St. Louis in a motorhome in the eight-part series set to run on Thursdays through Aug. 25, father Marc Katzenberg considered it ”a great bonding experience.”

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Flexsteel Named Furniture ‘Supplier of the Year’

July 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

flexsteel-logoFlexsteel Industries Inc. has been recognized as the best of the nation’s furniture suppliers by an industry publication — an award that comes on the heels of company layoffs and sales declines in the midst of a struggling furniture market, according to the Dubuque (Iowa) Telegraph Herald.

The Dubuque-based furniture maker was named Supplier of the Year by Furniture Today magazine. The award, Flexsteel spokesman Justin Mills said, is significant since the publication is highly regarded among manufacturers and retailers in the industry.

Flexsteel received word about the recognition late last week, and the award will be presented in December at a conference in Naples, Fla.

“This is kind of a landmark for Flexsteel, it really puts us on the map,” said Mills, who said the publication also ranked Flexsteel as ninth among manufacturers worldwide in recent years as residential sales have grown.

Flexsteel was recognized in large part for company longevity, as it has been in existence for more than a century. Flexsteel was founded in Minnesota before moving to Dubuque in the early 1900s.

“We’ve been around 116 years and have one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry. So retailers are recognizing we’re a credible supplier,” Mills said.

The award was cast in the context of the current economic downturn, as the publication looked to recognize companies staying competitive. Mills said this served as a reaffirmation of the company’s efforts.

In the article, Furniture Today Editor-in-Chief Ray Allegrezza called Flexsteel an “American success story.”

“The company, which makes seating products for virtually every application, has more than a 100-year history as a credible, reliable and innovative supplier,” he said.

But the past year has unquestionably been a challenging one for Flexsteel.

Last quarter, Flexsteel reported net sales of $73.6 million for the quarter — 25% lower than the year before.

Ron Klosterman, Flexsteel chairman and CEO, said the work force was slashed by more than 30% over the year.

Many of those reductions came from the closure of Flexsteel’s New Paris, Ind., recreational vehicle seating production plant and ending manufacturing operations at a Lancaster, Pa., facility last fall.

But there have been job cuts locally as well, a series of reductions at the Dubuque flagship factory trimmed the staff to less than 150 and completely eliminated the second shift.

Mills said Flexsteel now employs 1,450 employees companywide.

“We hope that’s all behind us. It’s not been an easy journey to get where we are today,” he said. “Until this economy turns around that’s all we can do is be ready, be prepared and be well equipped.”

Mills said he didn’t want to speculate on the role the troubled recreational vehicle business will play in the future.

“It’s tough to say,” he said, adding that a turnaround on recreational vehicles won’t happen until the original equipment manufacturers rebound.

The furniture industry in general has been facing a perfect storm of rising material costs, the credit crunch and a generally poor housing market.

“Some of these manufacturers can’t balance source production versus domestic production and they get in big trouble. They’re taking out millions in loans just to stay in business,” said Mills, who said Flexsteel officials are hoping for a retail bounce back this fall.

“The bottom line is we’re well-positioned and well-equipped to handle the demand when it does turn around.”

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Maryland City Will Soon Limit Streetside RV Parking

June 24, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Police in Montgomery County, Md., have an added law-enforcement tool on their belts to help enforce parking restrictions that ban large vehicles from most public roads. Trailers, recreational and commercial vehicles are subject to $75 tickets beginning July 1.

Police outreach, including neon stickers on vehicles illegally parked, community meetings and fliers have been distributed to educate motorists, which the Montgomery County Council passed unanimously Jan. 27, according to the Business Gazette, Gaithersburg, Md.

“It’s not like we’ve shut down the county, we’ve just prohibited some of the places people can park commercial trucks and recreational vehicles,” said county councilman Michael J. Knapp  of Germantown.

The county has a population approaching 1 million and is located just north of Washington, D.C.

Recreational vehicles such as campers, motorhomes and boats will be allowed to park on county roads for 18 hours for loading and unloading, said Capt. Thomas Didone, commander of the 5th District police station. Commercial vehicles – a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds and more than 21 feet long and eight feet high – will be restricted to industrially zoned streets. Motorists can park commercial vehicles if it is being used for work at the time or if it is a bus dropping off or picking up passengers, Didone said.

“We’re going out that day and doing enforcement and we’ll see how many people are actually following the new law,” Didone said.

As long as pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles don’t exceed restrictions, residents won’t be ticketed but should consider “parking those in their driveway,” Didone said.

“If need be, officers will measure trucks and trailers in order to find out if it is in violation,” said police spokeswoman Officer Megan Duffey, who said all officers were issued measuring tapes.

County Council President Philip M. Andrews of Gaithersburg said the law will improve public safety.

“You don’t need an RV or a tractor trailer obstructing the view of a motorist,” Andrews said. “A motorist has to see people crossing the streets and pedestrians need to see cars coming around corners.”

Knapp said he “interacted” with truckers and recreational vehicle owners over the last few years about where they could park and store their vehicles. The Montgomery County Council is “still trying to find a place for additional long-term parking” for large vehicles, Knapp said.

Bob Hydorn, president of the Montgomery Village Foundation, said prospective home buyers are reluctant to buy homes in his community when they see commercial vehicles parked along the streets.

“Commercial vehicles need to be in a commercial area, not a residential one,” Hydorn said. “And if you own a boat or a travel trailer, you should have a place you can rent a spot from to store it in and not leave it on the street.”

Parking for truckers is becoming scarce across the country as new ordinances are adopted, truckstops are closing and housing developments are built, said Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association based in Missouri.

“We’ve seen this kind of ordinance pop up in communities across the country,” Taylor said. “A lot of times, a new residential development comes along and the people living there don’t want to see big trucks there.”

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Leveling System OEM Inks Multi-Year Pact with QMP

June 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Bullseye Technologies Inc. of Logansport, Ind. recently agreed to a multi-year pact with QMP of Elkhart, Ind., regarding the exclusive manufacturing rights for their breakthrough Bullseye Leveling Systems over the next three years.

BTI holds the worldwide exclusive rights to market and sell Bullseye Leveling Systems, the latest in electro-mechanical leveling technology for Class A, Class C and fifth-wheel recreational vehicles, according to a news release. BTI President Alan Brink said the new agreement was signed in April allowing QMP to exclusively manufacture and assemble the Bullseye vertical and folding leveling systems per Bullseye specifications.

“QMP has agreed to make as many systems as required by Bullseye Technologies..” he said. “QMP has the capacity to meet Bullseye’s projected volume now and in the foreseeable future.”

Working with Tim King, president of QMP, Brink said that this deal fit well into both companies’ future plans.

“QMP has been assembling the Bullseye since 2004 so they are intimately familiar with all of the mechanical features and functions of the systems – and we believe that together we can help revive the sagging Elkhart economy,” said Brink.

According to Brink, BTI will also have an office at their 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facilities.

“Bullseye personnel working in that office will conduct sales activities, facilitate orders and help administer the assembly and shipping functions,’ said Brink.

Complete with new PowerHead technology, the components of each Bullseye Leveling System are covered under a three-year manufacturers’ warranty including: four leveling legs, dash panel, control board, installation brackets, and hardware.

Made in the U.S. and able to lift between 16,000 – 64,000 pounds, BTI’s Bullseye leveling systems are environmentally-friendly and solve all problems typical of hydraulic lift systems.

For further information visit

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Traverse City to Ticket Overnight RV Parkers

June 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A leisurely, scenic parking spot during the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mich., could cost some visitors a lot more this year.

Local officials said they’ll target motorhomes and large recreational vehicles that frequently line up along Bay Street during the annual festival, particularly during air show years. They currently risk a $15 ticket for overnight stays, but many choose that relatively cheap option for a bayside perch.

No more.

Traverse City commissioners this week approved a parking ordinance amendment that sets ticket amounts for overnight campers at $100 for a first offense, increasing by $25 for subsequent violations up to $175, according to the Traverse City Record Eagle.

It’s a good move, said Curt Lichty, who lives on Second Street, just around the corner from Bay Street.

Motorhome drivers often park in front of his home and while some leave after a day, others set up for a couple of days, he said.

“A dude last summer parked his motorhome here and you could not see the water. I pay taxes for all this,” Lichty said.

It’s true that Bay Street is prime real estate during the National Cherry Festival, said Sid Lammers, owner of Trend Window and Design on Bay Street.

“People stake out a spot and it’s like a tailgate party,” he said.

Lammers said he prefers increased ticket amounts to closing the street or towing vehicles, both of which he’s seen done.

Some treat Bay Street like a campground, Lichty said, and open sun-blocking awnings and make a home of the grassy area between Bay Street and Grandview Parkway. He’s seen some return to their motorhomes, find a $15 ticket, yet stay the day.

A $15 daily ticket is not much of a deterrent, particularly when compared to fees to stay at area campgrounds, said Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes.

“City streets are intended for transient parkers and people were using it for an extended period of time,” Estes said. “It’s not going to be cheap anymore.”

Long stays have been a problem for years, especially when the U.S. Navy Blue Angels do flight demonstrations above Grand Traverse Bay, said city Commissioner Jim Carruthers. People jockey for the “upfront spots” on Bay Street and tend to stay until they are finished with the festival, he said.

Carruthers said he once counted 18 motorhomes or RVs on Bay Street.

Motorists may continue to temporarily park on Bay Street during the festival, but those who stay overnight will have to dig much deeper into their wallets.

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Lender’s Role for Fed Makes Some Observers Uneasy

June 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

For most of its history, the Federal Reserve has been a high temple of monetary matters, guiding the economy by setting interest rates but remaining aloof from the messy details of day-to-day business.

But the financial crisis has drastically changed the role of the Fed, forcing officials to get their fingernails a bit dirty, according to the New York Times.

Since March, when the Fed stepped in to fill the lending vacuum left by banks and Wall Street firms, officials have been dragged into murky battles over the creditworthiness of narrow-bore industries like recreational vehicles, rental cars, snowmobiles, recreational boats and farm equipment – far removed from the central bank’s expertise.

A growing number of economists worry that the Fed’s new role poses risks to taxpayers and to the Fed itself. If the Fed cannot extract itself quickly, they warn, the crucial task of allocating credit will become more political and less subject to rigorous economic analysis.

That could also undermine the Fed’s political independence and credibility as an institution that operates above the fray – concerns Fed officials acknowledge.

Executives and lobbyists now flock to the Fed, providing elaborate presentations on why their niche industry should be eligible for Fed financing or easier lending terms.

Hertz, the rental car company, enlisted Stuart E. Eizenstat, a top economic policy official under Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, to plead with both Fed and Treasury officials to relax the terms on refinancing rental car fleets.

Lawmakers from Indiana, home to dozens of RV manufacturers, have been pushing for similar help for the makers of campers, trailers and mobile homes.

And when recreational boat dealers and vacation time-share promoters complained that they had been shut out of the credit markets, Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican from Florida, weighed in on their behalf with the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, who promised he would take up the matter with the Fed.

“This is the most straightforward indicator of why we don’t want the government doing this, except in an emergency,” said Douglas J. Elliott, an economist at the Brookings Institution who supports the new lending program but worries about its long-term implications. “There is no clear line about who should be included and who shouldn’t be included. It’s an inherently political decision,” he added.

Big money is at stake. At issue is a joint venture of the Fed and the Treasury aimed at making more credit available. The program, known as the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, has bought about $27 billion in securities backed by credit card debt, car loans and student loans. In buying the securities, the Fed is providing the money that ultimately reaches businesses or consumers trying to borrow.

Despite a slow start, the program could soon expand broadly. This week, the Fed will add commercial real estate mortgages – a vast market – to the list of loans it will buy. Eventually, officials say, the TALF program could provide as much as $1 trillion in financing.

Fed officials say they, too, are uncomfortable with their new role and hope to end it as soon as credit markets return to normal. When R.V. manufacturers recently sought a meeting, senior Fed staff members refused to see them in person and instead heard their pleas in a conference call.

The central bank is increasingly having to make politically sensitive choices. For example, it is weighing whether loans to people who buy speedboats and snowmobiles are as worthy of help as those to people who buy cars. And it is being besieged by arguments from RV manufacturers and strip-mall developers that they play a crucial role in the economy and also deserve help.

Many of the decisions could have political repercussions. On Feb. 9, President Obama traveled to Elkhart, Ind., a Republican stronghold that Democrats hope to convert to their column. Elkhart is also home to much of the RV industry, which has been battered by the recession.

“When we talk about layoffs at companies like Monaco Coach and Keystone RV and Pilgrim International, we’re not just talking numbers,” Obama said, referring to three prominent RV companies. “We’re talking about people who’ve lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place.”

At the time, Fed and Treasury officials suggested that they would finance only car loans, credit card loans, student loans and Small Business Administration-guaranteed loans.

But the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Indiana lawmakers – among them, Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, and Rep. Mark Souder, a Republican – were already lobbying the Fed to include loans for recreational vehicles on its list of eligible collateral that the Fed would accept.

They were not alone. Rental car companies were pushing the Fed to finance their fleets. Hertz, which is owned by two private equity firms – the Carlyle Group and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice – hired Eizenstat to make its case.

In trying to persuade the Fed to relax its loan terms, Eizenstat led delegations of Hertz officials to both the Treasury and the Fed. They reached out to Ron Bloom, the co-chairman of the Treasury Department’s auto task force, as well as to top aides to Mr. Geithner. They also made detailed financial presentations to Fed officials in Washington and New York.

While the Fed so far has denied Hertz’s requests to relax loan terms, some of the lobbying appears to have worked. In March, the Fed announced that it would purchase loans used to buy light trucks and recreational vehicles. It also said that it would finance equipment leasing deals, rental car fleets and “floor plan” loans, which car and RV dealers use to finance showroom vehicles.

On May 17, the Fed refined its rules even more, saying that “recreational vehicles” included not just RVs but also boats, motorcycles and snowmobiles.

Fed officials said they had always intended to include those vehicles because they had long been financed through asset-backed securities of the type the loan facility was created to preserve. And the series of expansions, they said, did not reflect a capitulation to industry pleas. Rather, they simply announced additional details as policy decisions were reached.

Almost inevitably, industry groups are grumbling that the Fed’s terms favor some, like consumer car loans and credit card debt.

Mathew Dunn, a lobbyist for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said collateral requirements for loans to recreational boat dealers are higher than those for securities backed by car loans.

That may soon change. In late May, the Small Business Administration said that it would open one of its main lending programs to RV dealers. Because the Fed has already agreed to finance SBA loans, it may not be long before it is financing boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles and campers.

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