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Power Breakfast: RVIA Eyes Other Show Sites

May 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

James Ashurst (L) and Scott Graham discuss possibility of moving National Trade Show venue

James Ashurst (L) and Scott Graham discuss possibility of moving National Trade Show venue

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is looking at other venues for its National RV Trade Show, but officials stopped short of saying 2015 will be the last year Louisville will host the industry’s main event.

The revelation was made Thursday (May 8) at the RVIA Town Hall Meeting, which followed the RV Industry Power Breakfast at the RV/MH Hall of Fame’s Northern Indiana Event Center. 

RVIA officials were quick to add that the association is simply performing its due diligence and this doesn’t mean the show will be leaving Louisville. “Please don’t leave this room and say we’re leaving Louisville in two years,” said RVIA president Richard Coon.

A number of concerns surfaced following last year’s National RV Trade Show, notably traffic flow issues as well as registration difficulties. 

James Ashurst, RVIA vice president of communications and marketing, and Scott Graham, RVIA’s new national show director, presented their concerns to Louisville officials and are awaiting their response. In the meantime, they have looked at Indianapolis and Cleveland, among other places, as potential venues once the contract with Louisville expires in 2015.

“Nothing’s concrete,” Ashurst said. “But it’s incumbent on us to look at things we can do differently.”

One obstacle, no matter the venue, is the size of the show, Ashurst said. For example, if the show were to relocate to Indianapolis, it would completely fill Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis Convention Center. However, those facilities’ tall ceilings and wide concourses are appealing, he said.

Another obstacle is the two weeks it takes for manufacturers, suppliers and other vendors to move in and set up for the show. This poses a problem because other venues aren’t likely to set aside that amount of time, especially Lucas Oil Stadium that houses the NFL’s Colts as well as several high school and college football teams.

“We’re just kicking the tires,” Ashurst said, adding he expects Louisville will address all their concerns. “This helps to keep Louisville on their toes and be proactive in listening to our needs.”

Other topics addressed at the RVIA Town Hall meeting included the RV service technician training pilot program, trends in extended stay camping, RV transportation and legislative and regulatory developments.

Mel Adams, Airxcel Inc. president, said the RV service technician training pilot program was sorely needed since there are 3,000 fewer technicians now than there were prior to the recession.

“As dealers build back their business, there’s a great need for training new technicians,” Adams said.

Sharonne Lee, RVIA director of technical information, said the pilot program was successful because it provided one-day training at the dealership rather than pulling the technician away for an extended period of time.

Phase I of the pilot program trained 850 technicians at 180 dealerships, while Phase II trained 500 technicians at 36 events with the support of five suppliers. Also, a password-protected online technical library has been established that’s growing daily.

The pilot program will expand into three areas initially before it grows nationwide. Field representatives will be available in the northwest (Washington, Oregon and Idaho), south (Texas and Louisiana) and Minnesota. The challenge to expanding, Lee said, is that more suppliers are needed to support it. In addition, while the pilot program was provided at no charge, an analysis will have to determine the costs going forward.

“We need to ask the dealers “What is this worth to you?’ and then balance that with how much it actually costs to deliver it,” Lee said.

Jim Rogers, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) chairman and CEO, told attendees a growing segment of campgrounds are seeing a rise in extended stay campers, especially seasonal, or destination, campers. 

“The market is changing dramatically,” he said. “And campgrounds have to offer food service, entertainment and various activities for these people who are staying longer. This is the next evolution. This is still people camping, but now dad wants to be able to go to work or the family wants to hit the soccer game on Saturday.”

Coon added that as people discover the campgrounds they truly enjoy, they choose to purchase a park model and simply set it there for the season. He added that some people who don’t own a tow vehicle will have the dealer or another company transport the RV to the campground for them, and often the campground will store the unit for them during the winter.

“And if they don’t like that campground, then next year they’ll just take it to a different one,” Coon said.

During the RV transportation update, Jay Landers, RVIA director of government affairs, said the association is looking to attract more drivers as well as working to provide a CDL exemption for motorhomes and towables that fall within a specific dry weight range. The exemption request was filed May 11, he said, and he hopes to hear back soon.

The problem is the RV transportation companies can’t keep up with the demand. Related to this is the fact that RV transportation companies lost the equivalent of six weeks of work in the first three months of the year due to the harsh winter conditions.

Maryellen Adams and Kristy Fallon, Employment Network account executives, told attendees that at least 12 RV transport companies so far have been able to fill vacant positions using their online employment recruitment site. Adams said the benefit to their network of sites – including www.findtherightjob.com – is that companies only pay for active candidates, and that those candidates must go through a screening process first. Companies can customize the screening process to meet their needs.

“We’re young to the RV industry, that’s for sure. But we’re learning,” Fallon said. “And we’re responsive. I had one person from an RV transport company tell me that we improved 1,000 percent in the last five days just with the few tweaks that we’ve done.”

Dianne Farrell, RVIA vice president of government affairs, said the association is trying to effect change on several fronts with regard to legislative and regulatory developments, including getting all 50 states to have RV-specific legislation. So far, 17 have legislation that is specific for, and favorable to, the RV industry.

Another legislative issue has to do with Generalized System of Preference, or GSP, which mainly deals with import taxes. Specifically, Farrell said bringing in luaun plywood from overseas costs each manufacturer an average of $138,000 per month, or $1.7 million a year. Farrell said the RVIA is trying to convince the government that the GSP needs to be retroactively renewed to ensure favorable return for manufacturers.

Finally, Farrell said the RVIA is trying to convince all 50 states to pass legislation that identifies park models as vehicles rather than manufactured housing, which has zoning and tax implications not only for the owner but for the campground as well, she said. The goal is for three states per year to pass such legislation. 

– Rick Kessler, exclusive to RVBUSINESS.com

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Walorski Joins Power Breakfast’s Speaker Slate

April 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

PrintThe 2nd Annual “RV Industry Power Breakfast” featuring a prestigious slate of local and national speakers is again scheduled to draw key elements of the U.S. RV industry and an array of area industry people and civic leaders on the morning of May 8 to the Northern Indiana Event Center and RV/MH Hall of Fame in the RV-building hub of Elkhart, Ind.

And, with just a week to go before next Thursday’s breakfast, event coordinator B.J. Thompson of Elkhart-based BJ Thompson Associates has announced the addition of U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski to the fast-paced early morning agenda.

With Congress in session, the 2nd District Indiana Republican congresswoman has agreed to provide teleconference remarks as part of an event that is also slated to include remote comments from U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), of South Bend.

Rep. Jackie Walorski

Rep. Jackie Walorski

“We’re really pleased that Jackie Walorski, only two days after the May 6 primary, has agreed to join us,” said Thompson. “It’s one more feature making this year’s industry-centric event even more exciting. With our attendance closing in on our goal of 500 – a substantial increase over last year’s 400 – we have added several new features to the program that should bolster the intelligence-gathering value of the breakfast itself for all of our attendees.”

The Power Breakfast, kicking off with a 7 a.m. sunrise buffet and 7:15 a.m. program, is sponsored by Dicor Corp., Dometic Corp., Forest River Inc., GE Capital, Jayco Inc., Kampgrounds of America Inc., Thor Industries Inc. and Spartan Motors Inc., and is facilitated by Elkhart-based RVBusiness magazine.

Anchoring the program’s first half will be comments from Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon plus an update on the industry’s national Go RVing marketing campaign from James Ashurst, vice president of communications and marketing for RVIA, who will be joined on stage by Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia and Go RVing Coalition co-chairmen Bob Wheeler, president of Airstream Inc., and Tom Stinnett, principal of Tom Stinnett Derby City RV Center.

The second half will include remarks from KOA Chairman & CEO Jim Rogers in addition to a panel discussion spotlighting Forest River General Manager and RVIA Chairman Doug Gaeddert; Thor President & CEO Bob Martin; Jayco President & COO Derald Bontrager; Lippert Components Inc. CEO Jason Lippert; Patrick Industries Inc. President & CEO Todd Cleveland; and Airxcel Inc. President & CEO Mel Adams.

Afterwards, at about 10:45 a.m., will be a casual, off-the-record “RVIA Town Hall Meeting” during which attendees are invited to engage national association spokesmen and others on a wide range of topics, from technical training to certification, national trade shows, RV transport issues, camping trends, legislation and more.

Tickets for the May 8 event, including tables of eight, are available online through RVBUSINESS.com and RV Daily Report and, first-hand, at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and at the RVBusiness offices (2901 E. Bristol Street) in Elkhart. Business casual dress is suggested.

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RVIA to Open Elkhart Regional Office on May 1

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Elkhart site for RVIA offices.

Elkhart site for RVIA offices.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) will officially open its new regional office in Elkhart, Ind., on May 1 and host an open house for members and guests from 1-5 p.m. on the afternoon of May 8 following the RVBusiness RV Industry Power Breakfast program that morning.

After announcing plans to establish the office at RVIA’s Annual Meeting in March, association staff have been working the last two months on the administrative and logistical details to open the facility, which is located in an office complex in eastern Elkhart at 663 CR 17.

RVIA’s regional office will be staffed by Sharonne Lee, RVIA’s director of education, who is moving to the Elkhart area from the association’s Reston, Va., headquarters, and Scott Graham, the newly hired national show director, who is relocating from his previous job with the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) in Colorado Springs, Colo. There will also be offices for RVIA’s team of inspectors to work from as needed when in the area, RVIA said today (April 24) in a written announcement.

“In looking at how to structure the office we felt that having elements of the show, RV standards inspection and industry technical training functions staffed there offered the best approach as these areas typically have the most regular interaction between RVIA’s members and staff,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “Sharonne and Scott are eager to get started at the new office, and I know that both will do a fantastic job in representing RVIA in the Elkhart area.”

There will also be office space for other RVIA vice presidents and senior staff to use when traveling to Elkhart on association business. “In addition to the personnel who will be based there permanently, we are making it a priority to have other RVIA staff in Elkhart to meet with members at their facilities or to host them at the regional office so we can develop a keener understanding of the issues impacting their businesses and they can learn more about all that RVIA does on their behalf,” Coon said.

“With the consolidation of the RV industry, now more than ever a great majority of our members are located in northern Indiana,” he added. “As an association we felt it was important to establish this regional office to provide easier access to RVIA for our members, to enhance the lines of communication that we have with them, and to have the association become a part of the community.”

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Coon Sees RV Expansion, Growth to Continue

May 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Coon at the RV Power Breakfast

The RV industry isn’t back to its pre-recession heyday, but Richard Coon believes the ongoing expansion can keep going and there’s plenty of room for the recreational vehicle market to grow.

Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) addressed roughly 400 industry insiders in Elkhart May 9 as part of the inaugural RV Power Breakfast. After that event, he sat down with The Elkhart Truth to offer his analysis of the RV industry, which is heavily concentrated in the Elkhart County area.

With the recent growth in the industry, manufacturers and suppliers are already having a tough time keeping up. “It is better than I thought it would be, but I think they’re running into spotty shortages now. If the industry continues at the pace they’re continuing before the season’s out, there will be some difficulties in keeping up,” said Coon.

“Every month has beaten last year’s numbers,” he said. “Last year was not a bad year in the industry. That’s encouraging. We’ll keep up,” he said. “Overall you’d be hard-pressed to find the folks in this industry, whether you’re a supplier or a manufacturer, that don’t feel really good about this industry.”

Economic indicators are good for RV buying, the California market is strong and the weather is going to warm up in the northern-tier states, all of which will improve demand as this year goes on, Coon said. “Business is going to stay up for at least a few years.”

To read the entire article in The Elkhart Truth click here.

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