If you got trapped on the highway behind any pokey motorhomes or recreational vehicles over the holiday weekend, take solace in this: You were being inconvenienced by an American industry on the rebound.
MarketWatch reported that the most recent sales figures from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) show that RV and motorhome shipments to dealers for the year through May topped 144,000, a 13% increase over the previous year, keeping the industry on track for its best year since the recession started, The mega-camper business all but collapsed during the last recession, thanks to the combination of economic upheaval and high gas prices, with sales falling 58% from 2006 to 2009. Shriveling credit markets played a role, too, with many lenders unwilling to finance RV and motorhome purchases even as they freed up money for car loans in general.
Indeed, some analysts say looser lending policies are a major factor behind the current rebound. A spokesman for Thor Industries Inc., the company that makes Airstream and other popular RV brands, recently told Kyle Stock of Bloomberg BusinessWeek that buyers can now “get financing pretty easily up to about $150,000.”
A quick search online suggests that interest rates on RVs start at around 4.4%, compared with under 3% for the typical auto loan.
RV salespeople say that retiring “snowbird” Boomers are their biggest customers; the trade group doesn’t publish specific age breakdowns, but its literature suggests that ownership rates are highest among those between age 55 and 75.
Speaking of snowbird stereotypes, the archetypal motorhome, in which the driver’s cabin and the living quarters are all on the same chassis — Jack Nicholson’s Winnebago in the movie “About Schmidt,” for example — accounts for only about 12% of RV sales. Travel trailers that get towed behind another vehicle, like the Airstream, make up the majority of the market. Some of those are quite modest, but price tags on the most luxurious models can top $90,000.
So Elkhart County, what do you do for an encore?
The Elkhart Truth reported that after seeing the local economy make headlines nationally three years ago in the midst of the Great Recession, the employment picture in the Indiana RV hotbed has rebounded in near-equal measure over the past two to three years with job growth figures that beat those of any community in the United States.
Statistics released last week by the U.S. Labor Department showed Elkhart County’s percentage of job growth was three times stronger than the national average and a half a percent better than the second closest community.
A year ago, when similar figures were released, showing strong job gain that were among the best in the nation, Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County, said she was reluctant to put too much credence in the report.
But the newest figures that show a 7.4% rise in job growth is an indication, Heiden-Guss said, that the local recovery has been “phenomenal.” Combined over the past two years, the county has added more than 10,600 jobs to the workforce, according to the labor department.
“The RV industry is booming and surpassing records and essentially put us back on the map,” Heiden-Guss said.
Local officials say the recovery is still a work in progress and that they’re working to make further strides to ensure that those inevitable cyclical bumps in the economic road are less jarring than in the past.
Much of that involves efforts to diversify the county’s industrial base.
To read the entire article click here.
A high-profile spotlight on Elkhart County Ind.’s economic growth in Slate.com accelerates the momentum the county has enjoyed since the depths of the recession, says Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.
The South Bend Tribune reported that in addition to its own package of features in the online magazine, Elkhart County is home base for the GE Capital and Slate “Roadshow for Growth” national tour aimed at highlighting often-overlooked middle market businesses that play a vital role in the national economy.
The bus/RV for the trip that will visit dozens of cities by October is housed at Forest River Inc., where it was made, and the tour included visits to Forest River, Bennington Pontoon Boats and the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
The package at roadshow.slate.com/tag/elkhart includes an infographic “Meet the RV Capital of the World”; “RV Industry Keeps Elkhart Rolling”; and an interview with Bennington Pontoon Boats CEO Steve Vogel, “How Do You Sell Pontoon Boats During a Recession?”
That national exposure adds another wave of good news in the county, called the “white-hot center of the economic meltdown” in 2008. Last year, Elkhart County led the nation in job growth, with a jump of 7.4% in employment compared with a national average of 1.9%.
“I would say that the significant robust activity has really positioned Elkhart County for continued growth for quite some time,” Heiden-Guss says. “It’s the RV industry that has saved us through these challenging economic hurdles by their speedy recovery.
To read the entire article click here.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 2012 Industry Profile, which provides a statistical portrait of RV production and sales from last year, has been published and is now available to the industry.
According to a press release, the publication offers a detailed look at RV production and shipment statistics, including historical comparisons of shipment figures and dollar volume as well as production breakdowns by product type and shipment destination.
Key findings from the 2012 Industry Profile include:
• Wholesale RV shipments reached their highest annual level since 2007 at 285,700 units, a 13.2% increase over the previous year.
• The total retail value of those shipments neared $11 billion ($10.8 billion), a 20% increase over the $9.03 billion total in 2011.
• Indiana continues to lead the country in RV production, manufacturing 83% off all RVs in the U.S.
• Texas is the top destination for RV shipments, receiving 8% of the total. California (5.87%), Michigan (4.98%), Florida (3.52%) and New York (3.19%) round out the top five.
• An analysis of the production highlights and a demographic profile of the RV consumer are also included in the publication.
A copy of the 2012 Industry Profile was sent to all RVIA members. Additional copies for members as well as industry contacts are available through the publications store at www.rvia.org.
RVs have enjoyed the media spotlight in recent weeks with several appearances in the national media, culminating in two live segments on the popular FOX & Friends morning show on June 17.
As a result of RVIA’s ongoing public relations campaign, RVs have been featured on NBC News, ABC News, CNBC, FOX and the Hallmark Channel, as well as in Bloomberg Businessweek, according to a press release.
Media hits include:
• On June 17, RVs were the focus of two live interview segments on the highly rated FOX & Friends morning show. The first segment showcased an Airstream trailer and offered the chance to discuss the recovering RV market, the popularity of trailers and the option of renting RVs with Dicky Riegel, former Thor Industries Inc. and founder of Airstream 2 Go. The second segment included former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and took place inside a Winnebago motorhome.
• On June 12, “Marie” — a Hallmark Channel talk show hosted by Marie Osmond — aired a segment that included Go RVing spokesman Brad Herzog. Herzog and Osmond showed three different RVs representing the most popular types of towable and motorized RVs.
• On June 6, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article focusing on the industry’s recovery from the recession. The article noted that the $14 billion RV industry is on course for its best year since 2007, and included RVIA’s projected shipment total.
• On June 3, “ABC World News” aired a story about the RV industry that included a visit to Winnebago’s Iowa headquarters, reasons for the industry’s turnaround, and information on the burgeoning rental market.
• On May 31, CNBC aired a “Behind The Wheel” segment focused on the industry recovery and Winnebago’s growing sales. Also on May 31, several national magazines published reports about the RV industry. Sunset Magazine published a guide to RV trailers; Midwest Living released a report about the best places to camp in the Midwest; and U.S. News and World Report published a story about how RV sales are booming again.
• On May 23, “NBC Nightly News” broadcasted a report that the industry’s recovery is driving a hiring boom in Elkhart, Ind.
Registration hasn’t started and the invitations haven’t gone out yet, but the RV industry expects this year’s RV Open House Week in mid-September to be bigger than ever.
“We still expect a helluva turnout. We expect a bigger and bigger turnout,” said Jeff Babcock, one of the general managers at Forest River Inc. “As every year comes and our business grows, we expect it to keep getting bigger and bigger.”
The Elkhart Truth reported that at Keystone RV Co., the biggest brand of the other RV giant, Thor, company officials are hearing lots of buzz about the open house, though Jim Mac, Keystone spokesman, said, “attendance is pure speculation. We are optimistic that it will be as large or larger than last year.”
To read the entire article click here.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) board wrapped up Committee Week, held June 2-6 at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C., by approving a host of committee recommendations at their meeting on Thursday.
In addition, RVIA named two new members to its board. Mike Farmer, vice president of sales and marketing for Carefree of Colorado, will fulfill the term of the company seat being vacated by Jeff Rutherford, who is leaving Carefree of Colorado to join Airxcel. Jim Hammill, president of Roadtrek Motorhomes, will assume that company’s seat which had been filled by Jeff Hanemaayer who is resigning.
In the area of industry education, the board gave approval to a new pilot program designed to help increase awareness of and participation in industry technician training and certification programs. Kicking off in July, the six-month pilot effort will utilize in-field representatives visiting RV dealerships in the northwest (Idaho, Oregon and Washington) and south central (Louisiana and Texas) United States to test the new approach. The effectiveness of the pilot program will be reviewed at the end of the six-month period.
The field reps will work to establish relationships with service managers and technicians to identify those involved in service areas at the dealership and gather contact information. They will also examine what service training has been received at the dealership and what training may be needed. If training in a specific area is needed, the field rep would work to facilitate making that training available to the dealership and others within the region.
In other actions, the RVIA Board approved:
• Using the term “park model RVs” for public relations and marketing purposes while using either of the terms “recreational park trailers” or “park model RVs” for regulatory and standards purposes.
• Adopting the 2014 editions of the NFPA 1192, NFPA 70 (NEC) and ANSI 12V Standard effective May 1, 2014, with a mandatory enforcement date of Sept. 1, 2014.
• Investigating the feasibility of participating in the development of a global RV standard (ISO) to identify the potential benefits of such an endeavor.
• Adding Class B motorhomes to the “Retail Sales Activity” (12-month Rate of Change) section of the Monthly Marketing Report beginning with the July report.
• Raising the spare/demo unit fee at the California RV Show from $300 to $400 for 2013.
• Increasing the registration fees at the show for nonexhibiting attendees from $60 to $100 for members and from $120 to $200 for non-members for 2013.
The RVIA board actions were the result of recommendations from many of the association’s standing committees that met from June 2-4. Programs with specific budgets for FY2014 are pending until final approval by the RVIA Executive Committee at its August budget meeting and the RVIA Board at its September meeting.
The recent acceleration in car sales is impressive, but there’s an even better sign the U.S. economy is getting back on track: surging sales of recreational vehicles. Bloomberg Business Week reported that makers of RVs shipped 32,054 machines in the U.S. in April, a 19% increase from a year earlier, according to data compiled by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
RVs are a notable niche because it takes no small amount of consumer confidence to buy a gas-guzzling home on wheels. Between 2007 and 2009, more than half of the RV market disappeared. Light-vehicle sales, by contrast, dropped by 36%. “No one needs an RV,” said Jeff Tryka, a spokesman for Thor Industries Inc., one of the biggest U.S. RV makers. “It’s a purely discretionary purchase, while there’s always going to be a base-level demand for cars.”
The motorhome and towable RV business, a $14 billion market in the U.S., is on track for its best performance since 2007. For the year to date, shipments are up 13% and RVIA expects more than 307,000 vehicles to roll by January. The sales boost doesn’t matter much to Detroit, but it’s big news about 200 miles away in Indiana, where roughly half of the country’s RVs are made. It’s also great for companies like privately held Jayco Inc., the Forest River Inc. unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, and Thor, which cranks out some of the most popular RV brands.
When the RV market bottomed out in 2009, Thor’s payroll dropped to 5,400 workers; today it employs 8,800. And in anticipation of higher demand, it just bought a factory in Wakarusa, Ind., equipped with 35 booths for painting giant campers. The company will give a progress report when it announces earnings later today. Last quarter, Thor posted income of $19.9 million—a 45% increase from a year earlier.
To read the entire article click here.
Ron Spike purchased a Rockwood Windjammer travel trailer at Ruff’s RV Center in Euclid, Ohio, two months ago.
According to a report by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in the months since he joined the 8.9 million U.S. households — or 8.5% of all American households that now own RVs — Spike is part of a growing community of people who see upscale camping or traveling as a great way to relax.
“I parked mine at a campground in Geneva. Even though it’s about 40 minutes from our home in Lyndhurst, it’s still like going on vacation,” said the 62-year-old recently retired truck driver whose wife Marlene will join the retirement ranks this month. “There’s no stress out there. It’s so relaxing.”
Across town, Ron Revelt of Olmsted Township stopped by Moore’s RV in North Ridgeville to pick up a part for his decked-out fifth-wheel, his third and last purchase made in 2008. But he couldn’t help but check out an even more luxurious recreational vehicle during his visit.
“They keep coming up with more new neat things,” said Revelt, 73, a retired teacher and pilot who talked of new safety features and luxuries in the kitchen and bedrooms. “There’s always something I want.”
Nationwide, sales are rebounding because of new destination campers like Spike and repeat customers like Revelt who travel the country. They represent renewed hope for an industry that has suffered blows since the recession but is now attracting more younger people and families.
To read the entire article click here.
The first quarter was kind to the recreational vehicle industry. Building on three years of continuous growth, the RV industry experienced an 11.2 percent gain in units shipped in the quarter compared to the first quarter in 2012. And that growth is expected to accelerate.
As reported by the Goshen News, the industry’s forecast issued earlier this year by Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan predicted a 7.5% gain in units shipped for 2013. That gain would mean 307,300 RVs would be sent by manufacturers to dealers. Such a gain would be a significant jump over the low year of 2009, when 165,700 units were shipped during the height of the recession. But a much larger gain would be needed to reach the record year of 2006 when 390,500 RVs went out the doors of local RV factories.
“Every year has been an up year since 2009 if you graph it out,” said Doug Gaeddert, Forrest River’s general manager and chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which compiled the quarterly totals.
“One thing,” Gaeddert said of the reason for the continual gain, “is the economy is in much better shape than the media would lead you to believe.”
He said the bank industry has solved its credit crunch, which resulted in RV dealers being unable to finance inventory during the recession and consumers who wanted to buy RVs having to have the best of credit and lots of collateral.
Another factor in the resurgence of the industry is that more people in North America are reaching the ages where they want to travel and camp in RVs.
“The demographics are in the right place,” Gaeddert said. “So the sun and the moon and the stars are lined up real well.”
To read the entire article click here.
Pacific Coachworks Inc. (PCW), Southern California’s luxury recreational vehicles manufacturer, is launching new 2014 models for its Econ, Tango and Panther travel trailers, as well as its Sandsport and Powerlite toy haulers and fifth-wheels.
The launch, in collaboration with Johnnie Walker RV in Las Vegas, will appear on Animal Planet’s TV series “Tanked” starting at 6 p.m. PST Friday (May 31).
The episode highlights a custom fish tank built into PCW’s Econ trailer. “Tanked” follows brothers-in-law, business partners, best friends and rivals Wayde King and Brett Raymer as they travel the country building show-stopping custom aquariums.
“We strive to continuously enhance the RVs our company manufactures and dealers and customers have become partial to our quality products,” said Jeff Daily, general manager of Riverside, Calif.-based Pacific Coachworks. “We pay close attention to the comments and requests received and our team works diligently to apply any changes necessary to continually offer the best RV product.”
For details regarding “Tanked,” visit www.animalplanet.com/tanked.
For other Pacific Coachworks news, visit www.pacificcoachworks.com. You can also email the company at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (951) 686-7294.
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Today’s Video #1 features a news story broadcast on Thursday (May 23) on “NBC Nightly News” about the RV industry. Focusing to an extent on Keystone RV Co. Inc., it was taped in part in Goshen, Ind., prior to the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April and news priorities prompted the network to hold the report until Thursday.
Keystone RV officials told RVBusiness they were pleased with NBC’s treatment of their company and the RV industry, timed as it was in advance of the Memorial Day weekend and the official kickoff of the summer travel season. “NBC did a story way back in the RV ‘dark days’ about people losing their jobs and how tough it was on Elkhart,” said Keystone Marketing Director Jim Mac. “They interviewed some Keystone workers in the Montana plant and decided to come back now for a ‘then and now’ report. Keystone was honored to represent the comeback of the RV industry in the national media.”
So, for the moment, RVBUSINESS.COM’s interview with Fleetwood RV Inc. President & CEO John Draheim is on Video #2 and the segment with Airstream Inc. President & CEO Bob Wheeler is in the Video 3 slot.
Editor’s Note: The following article was published by CNN Money offering a rundown of the various types of RVs available. To view the entire story click here.
It isn’t as well-known as his investments in Heinz or American Express, but Warren Buffett has a stake in the recreational vehicle industry. In 2005, Buffett made an offer to purchase Forest River Inc., an RV manufacturer in Elkhart, Ind. over the telephone just one day after he first learned about the company. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has since been doubling down, purchasing Coachman RV in 2008 and Dynamax Corp. in 2011 and has singled out Forest River for praise. In his 2011 letter to shareholders, he wrote: “Forest River has 82 plants, and I have yet to visit one (or the home office, for that matter). There’s no need; Pete Liegl, the company’s CEO, runs a terrific operation.”
Buffett’s endorsement came as the RV industry was recovering from a once-in-a-generation slump. RV shipments climbed back up to 273,600 units in 2012, their highest level since 2007, according to the University of Michigan Consumer Survey Research Center. The market continued to gain ground in the first quarter of 2013 with total RV wholesale shipments rising 11.2% year over year.
That isn’t peanuts. RV’s are a $10 billion industry, with 80 manufacturers and 3,000 dealers. Thor industries, maker of the Airstream, and Buffett’s Forest River control 65% of the business, which is getting a big demographic boost: More baby boomers are moving into retirement, and buying an RV is one of the ways they reward themselves when they do.
RVs fall into two general categories: towables, where the entry-level RV has no motor and must be pulled behind a car or truck; and motor homes, self-contained units where everything is within arm’s reach of the driver’s seat.
To view the entire article click here.
Along with the omelets and pork sausages in the buffet line, Doug Gaeddert, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and a general manager of Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., served up some straight-shooting opinions in his remarks during the RV Power Breakfast, May 9 at the Northern Indiana Event Center, a part of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart. Here’s a few highlights from Gaeddert, who served with Dicor President Gregg Fore as a co-emcee:
Current shipment vitality: “Total shipments for the first three months of 2009 were approximately 30,500 units compared with 79,422 units for the January through March period of this year. That’s a whopping 160% jump. So, if you feel like you’ve been running faster and working harder – you have been and that’s great for all of us. It’s also great for the local communities in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. We’re all somewhat joined at the hip and the positive ripple effect has been felt by nearly everyone – even the local, state and federal governments who seem to be constantly complaining about revenue.”
Hershey Show & the Open House: “Not as RVIA chairman or a long-term Forest River-Pete Liegl guy, but as an industry guy, I think the Open House Week, as it has come to be known, has been a positive for the industry and hits at a perfect time. While negatively impacting the Dealer Days of Hershey, whose wholesale value has steadily declined anyhow over the years, it has more than made up for it by further enhancing the retail portion of the show. With the Open Houses immediately following Hershey, the number of dealers attending the Pennsylvania Show from outside the market who don’t show product has declined, but most, if not all of the products being displayed at Hershey, are now what’s ‘new’ for the upcoming year. This gives retail customers the opportunity to get the first look and actually purchase new industry offerings. This is something that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in North America.
“Becky Lenington and the folks at the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association (PRVCA) have done an awesome job of developing Hershey into one of the most outstanding retail shows on the continent. They draw people from a wider geographic area and in larger numbers than ever before, and dealers sell a ton of product. This has become, in my opinion, a destination show of the highest quality. I’m not going to get drawn into a comparison though of it versus Tampa or Pomona. They’re all tremendous shows!
“Hershey kicks off the fall schedule and Louisville effectively closes it. Post-Louisville surveys over the last couple of years have shown that the majority of dealers participating will continue to go to the Open Houses and will continue to attend Louisville – and don’t want to change the time frames of either. Seems pretty simple: They like both of the events as well as the timing. Obviously it’s not unanimous, but it’s an overwhelming majority. With that being said, I predict a certain degree of consolidation will occur among these other fall events, just as it has occurred in other sectors of the industry over the last few years. Nature will take its course over time, but nobody will successfully force it.”
RVIA’s Louisville Show: “Although industry shipments have been rising rapidly over the last few years, the number of OEMs, suppliers and dealer/owners has shrunk by around a third. With an approximate 33% reduction of players in these key categories, not even taking the campground ownership consolidation into consideration, why in the world would you expect attendance at this show to have grown? In my opinion, Louisville has hit the leveling-out point, and with possible further industry consolidation ahead, I don’t see it growing significantly, but I do see it remaining steady and continuing to grow in value.”
RV-Specific Legislation: “Cars and RVs shouldn’t operate according to the same rules. As our industry continues to grow, mature and consolidate, I believe it will become even more important that we see RV-specific legislation replace automotive legislation in those states in which we as an industry are governed by car laws. Oklahoma is an excellent recent example of a win/win/win for our industry by everyone working successfully together to get RV-specific law into place. RV manufacturers, RV dealers and RV suppliers deserve to play by rules specific to our industry. We are the RV industry, not the car industry – and proud of it.”
RV Transportation Issues: “One challenge which the industry seems to face every year in the spring is a shortage of finished goods transportation availability. As many of you are aware, this sector is currently struggling to keep up and will be until at least the first week of July. We are attempting a new and different approach by utilizing RVIA’s resources to see if we can’t help smooth it out for the long haul.
“RVIA is exploring several possible strategies in hopes of being able to positively impact the RV transportation sector for both the United States and Canada. No promises at this point, other than we are diligently working on it. If successful, however, it will be too late to affect spring and summer of 2013. We hope to be able to help the industry improve the peak shipping periods of 2014.”
Credit Availability: “I think it is crucial our industry — which includes all of us — remains disciplined in our approach to credit. Solid practices are one of the keys to our growth remaining real and sustainable. If we slip back into the same lax practices the industry utilized in 2008, we’ll end up with the same result. 2009 reminded me of a fastball I once threw that was hit back at me a hell of a lot faster than I threw it, resulting in my second broken nose and a busted tooth! Let’s not throw that same fastball as an industry again!”
Industry Relationships: “Probably the single coolest thing to me about being involved in the RV Industry for all of these years is the people. Take a minute to look around the room. Most of us compete with each other, sell to each other, buy from each other, finance each other, represent each other, write about each other and, yeah, probably even cuss at each other sometimes. But at the end of the day, we’re also basically good friends. It’s a close-knit industry that, while growing rapidly, is also getting smaller at the same time.”
The good times are coming back for the recreational vehicle industry.
As reported by the Goshen News, speakers at the RV Power Breakfast Thursday (May 9) morning contended that while the industry is still far below its output of the pre-recession years, growth has occurred in the past two years and is expected to continue through the end of 2013.
“We had some good times back in the 70s,” said Robert M. “Mac” Bryan, Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) vice president of administration while he stood in front of a screen full of numbers recounting the historic ups and downs of the industry. But all the recent numbers are moving upwards.
RV shipments from manufacturers were 353,400 units in pre-recession 2007, then dropped to 165,700 units by 2009. Since then the industry has had steady growth, with gains each year through 2012. When 2012 ended, 285,900 units had been shipped. The RVIA forecast for this year’s shipments is 307,300 units.
The North American demographics favor the RV industry, Bryan said. Based on historical data there are 8.9 million RVs in use now and there should be about 11 million RVs in use by the end of the decade. To reach that milestone the industry will have to produce about 350,000 units on average each year, he said.
Reflection on hard times
“With creativity and imagination, there is no limits to the amount of RVs that can be sold in the next decade,” he told the industry leaders. “And I see no lack of either in this room.”
But there most likely were fewer RV members at the breakfast than would have been attending in the past. Richard Coon, RVIA president, said that in 2008 the trade organization had 555 member companies. Membership was 410 members in 2013.
That decline of 26% is due to the recession and the resulting consolidation and winnowing that occurred.
“Since 2008, 53 companies have gone away,” Coon said of the industry. Eight of those RV companies were absorbed by others. He said only one company quit the organization during the recession and has not rejoined.
A positive trend is that there have been 23 new RV-related companies created in recent years, Coon said.
Always a preacher of the RV gospel, Coon was a strong advocate before, during and now after the recession for the RV lifestyle and the quality of products produced.
Even during the height of the recession, the travel trailer segment of the industry remained strong, according to Coon and in 2012 that segment was still solid.
And, consumers can find a travel trailer bargain.
“The price of a conventional trailer is almost the same as it was 15 years ago, but the product is better,” Coon said. “That is a real tribute to the people in the room.”
To read the entire article in the Goshen News click here.