Editor’s Note: The following is a report by WNDU, South Bend., Ind., on the boom in the RV industry and the impact on Elkhart County. To view the entire article and watch an accompanying video click here.
It’s been a great year for the RV industry. According to a report by WNDU, South Bend, Ind., through the midway point of 2013, RV wholesale shipments tracked by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) climbed to 174,871 units — a 12.8% increase from the same point in 2012.
“We approach every year cautiously optimistic,” said Jeff Runels, vice president of sales for Keystone RV Co. “This year has been a really pleasant surprise, we thought coming out of last year — which was, again, a pleasant surprise — we might level off.”
Beyond the numbers themselves is an economic impact that runs deep in Michiana.
Elkhart County produces about 80% of all RVs made in the United States. Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Council of Elkhart County, explained that some 30 RV manufacturers have their corporate headquarters based out of Elkhart County, as do more than 100 industry suppliers.
Runels said that as Keystone sees prolonged increases in sales it starts to increase numbers of employees and subsequently its manufacturing output. The Goshen-based builder, like most other RV manufacturers, saw across the board increases in product demand – from smaller, entry-level units, to the larger and more upscale units.
“When you get a year like this, when you do have that uptick in sales it allows you to really analyze where that uptick is and try to take advantage of those new spots, those new buyers.” According to Runels, they actively watch and see what new buyers are interested in so they can accommodate those interests. That’s why in 2012 and the beginning of 2013 Keystone was able to add several new models.
Runels added that the company almost restored its employment to pre-recession levels by the end of 2012, but thanks to the added boom, they’ve reached almost record levels this year.
To view the entire article and view the video click here.
It’s another positive economic national statistic for Indiana’s Elkhart County.
As reported by the South Bend Tribune, in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) quarterly census of employment and wages, the Elkhart-Goshen area has the eighth-highest increase in average weekly wages between the fourth quarter of 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2012.
An article in 24/7 Wall St., citing stats from the BLS, said the one-year wage growth in the Elkhart-Goshen area was 9.1% for an average weekly wage of $782, an increase of $65 per week.
“With the actual wages of the jobs, this year has been exceptionally good news after some rocky times,” said Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County. “We are grateful primarily to the marine and recreational vehicle industries for being responsible for the increase in employment and the wage level.”
Kyle Hannon, president and CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, put the victories in perspective.
The Elkhart area has led the nation in job growth for at least two years, Hannon said. Salaries naturally were going to increase with it.
To read the entire article click here.
Midway through the summer driving season, signs of the U.S. recovery go by in a blur as vacationers ply the byways either driving or towing proud new recreational vehicles.
Investor’s Business Daily reported that shipments of motorhomes jumped more than 30% this year through May versus the same period in 2012, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). Shipments of comparatively less expensive travel trailers rose 11%. Trailers make up a bigger slice of the RV fleet, with sales of 128,037 through May compared to just over 15,000 motor homes.
Most of the units are being bought by dealers to place in inventory, rather than sales to the final owner. Still, the rise in confidence is a welcome change after the industry rolled over early and hard when the economy tumbled. RV sales fell off nearly 50% from peak to trough.
The industry is particularly sensitive to factors such as consumer discretionary spending and rising fuel prices. It “rolled over” before housing and other sectors, and “was in an all-out free fall” by 2006, said Kathryn Thompson, CEO of Thompson Research Group.
“This industry is about as discretionary as you can get,” Thompson said.
The RV industry started upshifting somewhat in 2010. Sales accelerated in the second half of last year.
“You’re seeing a release of pent-up demand,” said analyst Gerrick Johnson of BMO Capital Markets.
“People who hadn’t bought anything are now replacing (aging RVs),” he said.
Much of that rebound is due to increasing consumer confidence, buoyed by rising home prices and the stock market’s advance to new highs.
To read the entire article click here.
The industry is gearing for the RV/MH Hall of Fame induction ceremony, set to run Aug. 5 at the Hall’s facility on the north side of Elkhart, Ind.
According to a press release, the day begins with the Annual Golf Classic at Bent Oak Golf Club in Elkhart. The golf outing starts at 7 a.m. with a full breakfast at Bent Oak. At 8:30 a.m. the golf begins with a shotgun start, followed immediately after the golf round with an awards luncheon.
That evening, the events surrounding the induction dinner for the Class of 2013 begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception in the Grand Hall at the RV/MH Hall of Fame, followed by the dinner and induction ceremonies. This year’s class will include the following RV/MH industries’ pioneers and leaders:
• Kirwan Elmers, Custom Coach
• C.M. Fore (deceased), Foretravel Inc.
• Lawrence C. Lippert, Lippert Components Inc.
• Matthew Perlot (deceased), Safari Motorhomes
• Thomas Walworth, Statistical Surveys, Inc.
• Craig M. Bollman, Mobile Home Communities
• Theresa Desfosses, State Manufactured Homes
• Thomas P. Meyers, Guerdon Industries
• Claude N. Palmer (deceased), Palmer Homes
Dick Jennison, president and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), a national trade association located in Arlington, Va., will deliver the keynote address.
Barry Cole, president of MH Insurance and the Hall’s chairman, noted, “We are honored to have Dick as our induction dinner keynote speaker as he will be able to give attendees new insight into the state of the manufactured housing industry.”
Darryl Searer, Hall president, said he expects about 400 guests from across the country for this year’s induction ceremonies and urges those planning to attend who have not already made their reservations to make their reservations now. “Seating locations at the dinner are on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier someone signs up, the better location they’ll receive.”
Regarding the golf fundraiser, Searer said reservations are below what was expected and he hopes more will sign up in the next two weeks. “The golf outing has historically been great fun for those participating – a chance to interact with clients and potential customers in a relaxed forum, a chance to really get to know them and build lifelong friendships and business relationships,” he said. “The golf event is also an important fundraiser for the Hall. Once the cost of the golf outing itself is deducted, all of the remainder of the funds is used to reduce debt and pay operating expenses. So those who participate in the golf event not only get to enjoy a day of golf with friends and colleagues, they are helping the Hall meet its goal of financial stability.”
Cole added, “I hope all RV/MH industry members will set aside Aug. 5 as not only a day to celebrate the induction of the Class of 2013 into the RV/MH Hall of Fame, but also, celebrate and support the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum itself.”
For more information on and to make reservations for the induction dinner and the golf outing, visit www.rvmhhalloffame.org.
Elkhart, Ind., was among the Top 10 U.S. cities that enjoyed marked increases in wages in 2012 compared with the previous year, according to a report in USA Today.
The city was listed at No. 8 in the rankings as the average weekly wage in Elkhart rose $65 between December 2011 and December 2012, when pay climbed to $782 per week.
The Elkhart area was hit hard by the most recent economic downturn as demand for its key industry, RV manufacturing, plummeted. The unemployment rate hit a high of 20.2% in March 2009.
However, the area’s manufacturing base, which comprises nearly half of all the area’s jobs, has been making a significant comeback, growing employment 7.4% from December 2011 to December 2012. Some of the area’s RV plants have announced plans to continue hiring in 2013.
The report showed:
• 1-yr. wage growth: 9.1%.
• Average weekly wage: $782.
• Dec. 2011 unemployment: 10.9%.
• Dec. 2012 unemployment: 9.5%.
• 1-yr. employment change: +5.5%.
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.