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Report: Indiana Business Confidence is Waning

August 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Heading into election season, Indiana business leaders throughout the state are not upbeat about the coming 12 months. The Indiana Business Council’s most recent study shows the Indiana Business Confidence Index (BCI) has fallen to 58%, the lowest point since the index was established nearly two years ago.

According to a report by Inside INdiana Business, the BCI is a measure of the overall confidence business leaders and employees throughout the state have in their company’s opportunity for growth and success in the coming year. Indiana is the center for the RV industry’s manufacturing sector.

“Indiana business leaders are very concerned about what will happen in the next six to 12 months and that is clearly reflected in the Indiana Business Confidence Index hitting its lowest level ever,” said Gerry Dick, president and founder of Grow INdiana Media Ventures LLC. “This sentiment is also carrying through to employees in their lack of optimism that morale has any hope of improving in the next six months.”

The most recent Indiana Business Council survey focused on job skills. Some of those results include:

• 66% of respondents have been asked to take on additional work without additional compensation.

• 53% believe they have necessary training to effectively do their jobs.

• Loyalty for middle managers dropped from 55% to 41%, and loyalty for supervisors dropped from 45% to 39%.

To receive more information on the study or to apply to participate on the council, visit www.INdianaBusinessCouncil.com.

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Elkhart Co. Approves Forest River Abatements

August 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Members of the Elkhart County Council Saturday (Aug. 11) approved two tax phase-in agreements for Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc. that promise to bring as many as 160 new jobs to the area.

According to the Goshen News, a tax phase-in is a partial or temporary exemption of a company from having to pay property taxes with the express purpose of stimulating economic development.

Millersburg Expansion

First to be approved Saturday was a resolution supporting an eight-year tax phase-in agreement involving Forest River’s Millersburg complex. Dave Ogle, director of business retention and expansion for the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, helped present the proposal for Forest River.

“I always want to reiterate our appreciation of Forest River being one of our premiere employers in the marketplace, employing well in excess of 3,000 Indiana or Elkhart County employees at their facilities, and certainly one of the higher paying facilities in the county,” Ogle said. “So we appreciate the opportunity to compete for their business.”

According to county attorney Craig Buche, the Millersburg expansion promises approximately $2 million in real estate redevelopment coupled with approximately $150,000 in new manufacturing equipment.

In addition, the company has indicated plans to hire approximately 120 new full-time positions. Such hiring is expected to lead to an annual increase in payroll of nearly $5.5 million.

“We recognize the fact that Forest River could build their plants anywhere,” said Elkhart County Council President John Letherman following the phase-in approval. “We’re thankful that you’re choosing to make significant investments in Elkhart County, which further cement Forest River in the community.”

In order to qualify for the tax phase-in agreement, Forest River has agreed to stay in operation at its Millersburg location for no less than 10 years. Should the company fail to meet its obligations under the phase-in agreement, Forest River would be forced to repay the county a prorated portion of the total real estate and personal property taxes saved as a result of the tax phase-in agreement.

Middlebury expansion

The Goshen News reported that also approved Saturday was a resolution supporting a five-year tax phase-in for Forest River’s Middlebury complex that should bring 40 new full-time positions to the area.

In connection with this expansion, the company has indicated plans to invest approximately $1.25 million in new manufacturing equipment.

As for the 40 new full-time positions expected, Buche indicated that an annual increase in payroll of nearly $1.8 million can be expected.

As part of its tax phase-in agreement, Forest River has agreed that it will stay in operation for no less than seven years at its Middlebury location or face forfeiture of the agreement.

 

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Goshen City Council to Hear Forest River Plan

July 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Forest River Inc.’s plans to hire an additional 440 people by the end of 2015 – which hinges on the approval of various local and state tax breaks – includes expansions at five of the builder’s facilities in Indiana’s Elkhart County.

As reported by the South Bend Tribune, the recreational vehicle maker’s expansion plans in Millersburg and Middlebury were presented Saturday (July 14) to the Elkhart County Council. A vote will be taken in a second meeting on Aug. 11 after a public hearing.

A similar presentation regarding two facilities in Goshen will be made to the Goshen City Council today. All told, Forest River’s expansion covers five facilities, including a third site in Goshen for which the company is not seeking any incentives.

“I am glad to see Forest River step up and take this action,” said Dave Ogle, director of business retention and expansion for the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

“The market is contracting rapidly to fewer significant players and as a consequence more states want our stuff,” Ogle added, citing Oregon, Michigan, California and Ohio as states seeking RV companies. “I am glad they are giving us a chance to compete for their business here. We do not want that to be diluted in any way. That also impacts the supplier chain integrity as well.”

Forest River is seeking the normal tax phase-in on new properties and improvements to existing facilities, Ogle said, along with phasing in its new investment in equipment for these properties.

“It’s important people understand a tax phase-in does not impact the tax rate of an existing facility,” Ogle said. In other words, Forest River will continue to pay what it has been paying at its facilities.

“The tax abatement impact is just on the new investment that is increasing the assessed value of that property,” Ogle said.

The jobs are good paying jobs, Ogle said. Some are in the $22-per-hour range.

But Ogle said it is his understanding that Forest River is being conservative with those estimates. “In talking with the people at Forest River, it is not uncommon for people to make $25 to $30 an hour,” he said, adding that there are bonuses tied to the amount of work employees complete.

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Forest River Seeking Tax Breaks for Expansion

July 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Goshen, Ind.-based Forest River Inc. is seeking state and local tax breaks the company says will allow it to add 445 new jobs through plant expansions.

The Associated Press reported that Forest River is seeking a pair of tax breaks from Elkhart County to expand its operations in Middlebury and Millersburg. The company is one of the county’s biggest employers.

Company spokesman Mike Stump tells The Elkhart Truth the tax breaks would allow Forest River to remain competitive in the RV industry. The company has asked for tax deductions spanning eight years for its property improvements and equipment.

Stump says the company must gain local support to qualify for state assistance, which could add up to between $6 million and $10 million.

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Jayco Unveils New ’13 Product at Homecoming

June 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Jayco Seismic toy hauler

Jayco Inc.’s recently completed 2012 Dealer Homecoming in Myrtle Beach, S.C., offered the Middlebury, Ind.-based company a chance to mark its 44th year of operation while giving dealers a broad look at initiatives and programs designed to give them a competitive edge in today’s marketplace.

Topping the list, according to President and COO Derald Bontrager, is a continued emphasis on an aggressive and innovative approach to product development.

“We’re extremely proud of the product lines being unveiled at this meeting – they are a reflection of our resolute commitment to provide our customers with the best value in the marketplace,” Bontrager said to attendees representing 145 dealerships during his keynote address at the Sheraton Resort Hotel and Convention Center. “And, they are a demonstration that the commitment to product engineering that we have promised you is beginning to pay off. We are quicker to market, we are innovative, and we are adding value for our customers.”

Dave Eash, vice president of sales and marketing, reinforced Jayco’s ability to offer product that stood out on dealers’ lots, noting, “For the most recent periods reported this year by Stat Surveys, Jayco’s market share is up in every category. And we are on track to ship more than 27,000 units.”

Newly named Director of Product Development Amy Duthie, taking over for veteran Paul Gardner who moved into a regional sales manager role, added, “In today’s economic and competitive environment, product innovation is more important than ever before. It is a process and a culture that must be continually refueled by Jayco. It is what fundamentally drives economic growth, it increases productivity and, therefore, lowers cost. It adds value to the products and, therefore, increases market share.”

Several all-new lines along with new generations for existing products were unveiled during the June 18-20 meeting. Highlights included:

• Jayco introduced a revamped lineup in its long-standing Eagle towable brand. The Eagle HT fifth-wheel series now features an aerodynamic front cap design, all-new exterior graphics and an exclusive Magnum truss roof system. The interior is set off by decorative wall and ceiling board panel, upgraded carpeting, hard-top valance window treatments and a new slide fascia design. The company’s Eagle line, which replaces the Eagle Super Lite, shares many of the HT’s key features while sporting a chocolate glazed front cap and metal skirting, black extrusion accents and new G20 dark-tint windows. For 2013, Jayco also added the Eagle Premier fifth-wheel, featuring a new deluxe graphics package, accented by chocolate glazed skirting and radius roof metal, and a new clay glazed accent cap. Interiors offer fresh window treatment styling, a slide fascia design that features hardwood, a rear living overhead cabinet design and decorative interior wall and ceiling board panel.

• During the dealer meeting, Jayco unveiled its new Jay Flight DST destination travel trailer to complement its Jay Flight Bungalow line. The new DST is equipped with an atrium-style, gelcoat front cap, 60-inch sliding patio door and a detachable hitch. The full-featured kitchen includes an 18 cubic foot residential-style refrigerator with icemaker, large 60/40 deep-bowl sink with high-rise faucet and glazed Concord Cherry cabinetry. The interior also sports 90-inch interior height, standard ceiling fan, hidden switch command/charging center, Diamondflor vinyl flooring, residential-grade carpeting with padding, and a J-steel jack-knife sofa.

• Jayco’s 2013 Seismic toy hauler “redefines the category,” according to the company, packaged with amenities and styling normally found in traditional fifth-wheels. Interiors include three optional paint schemes, standard frameless windows, curved walls and a full-featured kitchen set off by Washington Glazed Maple stained cabinetry. The Seismic is equipped with extra tall slideouts and extendable dinettes. The garage, accented by charcoal-stained cabinetry, converts into another bedroom, giving the Seismic an additional four-person sleeping capacity. There is also a rear party deck for entertaining.

Management also elaborated on the Jayco Motorhome Group that was formed earlier this year by combining Jayco Class C motorhomes with the Entegra Coach Class A luxury lineup that includes the Aspire, Anthem and Cornerstone brands. Jayco started its Entegra Coach division in 2008 as a result of its acquisition of the assets of the former Travel Supreme Corp.

“We made this move because we believe the time has come to leverage our strengths in the market and to intensify our focus on each product segment,” stated Sid Johnson, director of marketing. “We are convinced this strategic change will enhance both the Jayco towable and the Jayco Class C products, and it will allow the management and staff of each group to focus on the needs of the marketplace for that segment.”

Tadd Jenkins, national sales manager, emphasized that the realignment “affords many opportunities for dealers,” including increased sales training.

“We have increased the frequency of dealer visits, making sure we have the confidence of your sales crew,” he said. “Honestly as we have been out visiting dealerships, and fielding phone calls, responding to both dealer requests and customer questions, I am in awe at the current Jayco sales group and the professional manner in which they have handled all that they have for so many years.”

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Jayco Hosts ’12 Dealer Confab in Myrtle Beach

June 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Derald Bontrager

While acknowledging the need to keep pace with the industry’s rapidly evolving landscape, Jayco Inc. officials equally stressed the importance of its family-grown roots and adherence to “our core values” as the company opened its 2012 Dealer Homecoming Monday (June 18) in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“Businesses throughout the world spend a lot of money every year trying to find the winning formula for improving their performance and competitive advantage,” stated Derald Bontrager, president and COO of the Middlebury, Ind.-based company, while delivering the keynote speech to attendees representing 145 Jayco dealerships at the Sheraton Resort Hotel and Convention Center. “What many organizations often fail to realize, in my opinion, is that lasting success comes from having a team that recognizes that people and values are their most important assets.”

Tying into the meeting’s theme of “One Family, One Future,” Bontrager noted, “Yes, we’re a family business. And we have included you in our extended family. And that means we’re all in this journey together. That’s where we’re different from most of the others.”

That journey includes, according to Bontrager, staying in step with an often-fickle and increasingly technologically-savvy consumer. “Our future depends on our ability to satisfy the passions of a shifting marketplace,” he said. “Today we are operating under a whole new set of wants, needs and desires on the part of our customers. That, and the economic realities which periodically cycle through our industry, have altered our business.

“The simple fact of the matter is that, out of necessity, Jayco has changed, is changing, and will continue to change.”

To reinforce the point, Bontrager reported that the company’s retail sales were up 16% year-to-date compared to the previous year. “That is an outstanding achievement, even in an improving economy,” he said.

Jayco Seismic toy hauler

He added that Jayco’s new generation of product, prominently displayed for dealers in Myrtle Beach, also offered evidence that the builder was in tune with today’s consumer.

“One of the worst business clichés, in my opinion, is, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” Bontrager said. “The moment we have a product or service that is innovative or hot in the market, someone else is trying to figure out how to do it faster, cheaper and better. So our goal in product management is to obsolete our own products before someone else does. So, if it ain’t broke, we’ll break it.”

Bontrager also related that Jayco’s Twin Falls, Idaho, facility will play a key role in future plans, noting, “Expansion of our offerings out of our western facilities remains a high-priority item as we plan our strategy for the future.”

Following Bontrager’s opening remarks, several awards were presented to dealers, including:

• The Jayco Founders’ Award for 2012 was presented to RV City based in Morinville, Alberta, owned by Ross and Jean Hodgins. The dealership, founded in 1968, was first named to Jayco’s Gold Circle in 1991. The retailer currently operates on a 15-acre site and employs 60 employees.

• The top five Jayco motorhome dealers in North America were: No. 5, Vogt Motorhome Center, Ft. Worth, Texas, Danny Vogt and Aaron Vogt; No. 4, Camping World RV Sales, Albuquerque, N.M., Dane Wyatt and Nora Rashid; No. 3, K & C RV Centers, Longmont, Colo.; No. 2, Terry Town Travel Center, Grand Rapids, Mich.; and No. 1, Richardsons RV Centers, Riverside and Menifee, Calif., Steve Richardson.

• The largest towable dealer award and the No. 1 combined award were presented to Happy Trails RV Inc., Grande Prairie, Alberta and Prince George, British Columbia, Peter and Susan Teichroeb, and Neal Stranaghan and Madonna Reardigan.

• Gold Circle awards went to dealerships marking milestones with Jayco, including: 40 years, Thompson Family RV, Davenport, Iowa, Brad and Brandy Thompson, Ayton and Dalton Thompson; 30 years, Town & Country RV Center, Clyde, Ohio, Dale and Holly Tea, and Bill Tea; 25 years, Miles Motors, Swannanoa, N.C., Miles and Colene DeBruhl; Steve’s RV Center, Lacombe, La., Steve and Josh Bordelan; Crestview RV Center, Buda, Texas, Mike and Vickie Regan, Lindsey and Kelsey Regan; Hope’s Camper Corner, Monroe, La., Lloyd and Beverly Sivils; RV City, Huachuca, Ariz., Ron, Vi, Daniel, Daniella, Sadie and Torrie Hoffman.

 

 

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Skyline Reports 3Q Net Loss on Higher Revenue

April 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Recreational vehicle and manufactured housing builder Skyline Corp. reported a net loss on increased revenue for its fiscal third quarter, ended Feb. 29.

Total net sales in the period were $36.8 million, a 16% increase from the $31.8 million reported in the same period a year ago. RV sales rose 34% to $17.7 million from $13.3 million in the previous year while housing revenue edged up 3% to $19 million.

Net loss for the third quarter of fiscal 2012 was nearly $7.4 million as compared to a loss of $8.7 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2011. On a per share basis, net loss was 88 cents compared to $1.04 for the same period a year ago.

Elkhart, Ind.-based Skyline announced the closure of its recreational vehicle facility in Hemet, Calif., due to weak demand in its market area – primarily states in the Pacific and Rocky Mountain regions. Operations are expected to conclude in April. The company said dealers that purchased recreational vehicles from this facility will have their product needs met by the facilities in Bristol and Elkhart.

Other highlights included:

• The board approved a resolution to suspend dividend payments on the outstanding shares of the corporation’s common stock until further notice. The suspension was for cash preservation purposes. The Board will evaluate financial performance and liquidity needs in determining the timing and amount of future dividend payments.

• Skyline reached a settlement in the case of FEMA formaldehyde product liability litigation. The settlement resulted in the corporation incurring a charge of approximately $400,000. The total settlement of $737,000 was remitted to the United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana subsequent to Feb. 29.

To view the entire report click here.

 

 

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KZ to Mark 40th Year During Dealer Open House

April 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

KZ RV LP will celebrate both its 40-year history and the future of the company during the upcoming dealer open house May 30-31 at its headquarters in Shipshewana, Ind., according to a press release.

“It’s an exciting time for several reasons. We’re proud of our past, and we’re eager to forge ahead,” said Andy Baer, KZ’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The recreational vehicle market has shown great resilience and the buying public are ready to get out and enjoy the RV lifestyle.”

KZ will show new products, conduct plant tours, give out dealer awards and hold social events for dealer attendees and KZ employees. Last year, 130 people from about 70 dealerships attended the open house.

“We like to give our dealer partners a sneak peek at what we’re working on, because they give us valuable feedback. They know what will sell and how we can make our products even more attractive to buyers,” Baer said. “That kind of input is critical to our ability to remain relevant, and it’s a big reason why we’re thriving after 40 years.”

Baer acknowledges that KZ’s spring open house is an unusual event considering the recent boom of manufacturers’ fall open houses in northern Indiana.

“Those events have their own purpose. In the fall, we receive many visitors spanning various levels of relationship with us, including casual observers who just want to see what we’re about, and we welcome that,” he stated. “Meanwhile, this invitation-only spring open house is for our established dealer partners so we can applaud their accomplishments, get their recommendations on product developments, rekindle our friendships with dealers – some of which span multiple generations – and just talk about the future. We want to give these special people our undivided attention for those couple of days.”

Baer said that KZ’s 40th anniversary will be a focal point all year in communications and outreach among all channels and associates. “KZ is proud of its heritage and we’re fully aware that it’s because of our dealers, employees and vendors that we’ve had so much success,” he explained. “We’re going to tell them ‘thank you’ every chance we get.”

For more information about the dealer open house, e-mail KZ RV at ryoder@kz-rv.com.

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RV Industry Veteran Kinney Remembers Carriage

March 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The following is an article from the Elkhart (Ind.) Truth featuring industry veteran Ed Kinney detailing the demise of venerable builder Carriage Inc. To view the entire story and accompanying pictures click here. Kinney can be contacted at (574) 596-7444 or ed@edkinney.com.

On a recent morning inside his studio, Ed Kinney was gluing pebbles onto his latest creation, a fairy house, and listening to a recording of singer Tony Bennett. Behind him sat a barber chair, sink and large mirror for the times when someone drops by for a quick haircut.

Kinney is an artist, a barber, an entertaining talker and a former RV industry executive who watched Carriage Inc. crumble from the inside. He harbors sadness and anger over the demise of the luxury fifth wheel maker, admitting he had a difficult time coming to terms with the company’s closure.

Yet when he talks about Carriage, the stories that come out first are the happy ones.

“Carriage, I always told people it was a magical place because of the people,” he said. “They took the time to do things right. They had a schedule but if something was wrong, they stopped the whole line to fix it. They had a lot of pride in what they were doing.”

Founded in the late 1960s, Carriage produced well-built, high-quality recreational vehicles at its Millersburg campus. In October 2011, production abruptly halted and then a few days later, PNC Bank filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer, stating Carriage was in default of its obligations to the bank.

The real estate has been put into receivership at the request of PNC and the assets were auctioned in a marathon session that lasted 14 hours Feb. 21. Kinney, the former vice president of sales and marketing, said he attended the sale long enough to see CrossRoads RV, a division of Thor Industries, purchase the Carriage intellectual property, including the name and fiberglass molds.

Ironically, Kinney’s RV career ended at the same place it began, Carriage. He had just closed his small barbershop to pursue a job offer in the manufactured housing industry that quickly turned sour. Kinney was then thrown a lifeline by Clarence Yoder, the founder of Carriage, who offered him the opportunity to learn about making and selling fifth wheels.

“Carriage was special because it was a great company with incredible people,” Kinney said.

To view the entire story and accompanying pictures click here.

 

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CrossRoads Gains Grant to Aid Expansion Plans

February 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Indiana’s LaGrange County Economic Development Corp. (LCEDC) has awarded a $50,000 grant from the LaGrange County Investment Fund to CrossRoads RV.

According to a press release, the towable builder announced last December that it was expanding operations and constructing a new facility at its campus in Topeka. The project is expected to result in the creation of up to 250 new jobs at CrossRoads RV by 2014, and will include approximately $3.9 million in new investment in the community.

“We are thankful for the assistance from the LCEDC and the LaGrange County Investment Fund,” said Don Emahiser, president of CrossRoads RV. “We were nearing capacity with our current facilities, and really needed to find additional manufacturing space. This grant from the Investment Fund really helped us make constructing a new facility that is tailored to our needs a reality.”

“We are always happy to help a local company like CrossRoads RV expand their operations in our community,” said Ken Mishler, chair of the LaGrange County Investment Fund Advisory Board. “This grant helped CrossRoads RV create another large investment into our LaGrange County community and we are thrilled that they have continued to grow locally.”

The CrossRoads RV grant represents the largest job creation project to date. “Making LaGrange County attractive for business investment is the main goal of the LCEDC and the Investment Fund. We are thankful to the LaGrange County Commissioners and Council for giving us the ability to provide an investment incentive such as this to our customers to help them bring growth to our community,” said Mark Leu, chairman for the LCEDC. “Their foresight in helping the LCEDC create this fund continues to pay dividends for our economic development efforts.”

“CrossRoads RV has been a great partner for the Town of Topeka and LaGrange County, and we’re excited that they have continued to grow in our community,” said Keith Gillenwater, president and CEO of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp. “A local success story like the continued growth of CrossRoads RV as one of our largest employers is truly what the mission of the LCEDC is all about –bettering the lives of all in our community through the opportunities that economic development brings.”

 

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