Outdoors RV Manufacturing Inc. has added Lethbridge Motors and RV as a new dealer located in Lethbridge, Alberta, representing all brands.
According to a press release, Jeff Hope, owner of Lethbridge Motors and RV, is new to the RV market and is exclusive with all brands offered by La Grange, Ore.-based Outdoors RV, including Back Country, Creek Side, Tamarack Trail, Timber Ridge and Wind River.
“I believe we cover all of the major price points with the Outdoors RV products along with offering a high quality, great looking product,” Hope said. “The four seasons package on all products alse gives us a great selling tool for Alberta’s climate.”
“Outdoors RV is excited to have the opportunity to partner with a new, young aggressive dealership like Lethbridge Motors and RV,” added Jim Croxton, general manager for Outdoors RV. “It certainly strengthens our presence in what has always proven to be a very strong RV market in Alberta.
“Jeff has been retailing products since he started and continues to increase volume at his dealership. We are excited with his success and look forward to a bright future as we partner together with Lethbridge Motors and RV.”
Luxury fifth-wheel manufacturer Carriage Inc announced today (July 19) the addition of Bob Scheer to the position of regional sales manager for the northwest region and the western provinces of Canada.
Scheer, who lives in Salem, Ore., brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Carriage team. “We are truly blessed to have him on board with us” stated Ed Kinney, vice president of sales and marketing for the Millersburg, Ind.-based company. “Bob’s experience with fifth wheels and the region he manages will strengthen our relationships with our dealer partners.”
“When Ed called I was so excited to have the chance to work with a quality company like Carriage,” said Scheer. “I appreciate the opportunity to be working with the Carriage team and supporting the dealer network. Carriage is the last of the true manufacturers building quality, and integrity into all that they do from the ground up. I could not be happier.”
Founded in 1968, Carriage manufacturers Cabo, Cameo, Carri-lite, and Royals International products at its complex in Millersburg with distribution through dealers in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia.
New companies are stepping in to buy up the area plants owned by bankrupt auto parts and RV makers. And it seems in every case, the new owners are privately held and often new to the sector into which they’re buying.
Private-equity firms have a bad name in some circles. The private investors often disclose little about themselves and seldom plan to operate a company for more than five years. They’re suspected by critics of facilitating the flow of U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas, according to the Fort Wayne, Ind., Journal-Gazette.
But they can also identify the most valued parts of a troubled company and preserve jobs, said Kenneth Carow, a professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
“They’ve been called ‘vulture capital,’ ” Carow said. “They pick over the carcasses of bankrupt companies.”
And just as vultures play an important role in nature, business experts say private-equity firms play an important – and growing – role in the U.S. economy.
“Clearly, you have a shift in the ownership structure of the U.S. industrial base,” said Gary Moore, chairman of the University of Toledo’s finance department.
The shift has been away from companies with shares traded on stock exchanges, Moore said.
Many of the private firms doing the buying these days are 10-year funds at the end of which wealthy investors expect a healthy return on their money.
An example is American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV LP. The fund raised $400 million late in 2008. It plans to make industrial investments, spend about six years improving their value and then spend the next four selling them at a profit, said Paul Bamatter, a partner in the fund.
In July, AIP bought the Decatur motorhome assets of bankrupt Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. The operation now employs about half the 1,300 who worked for Fleetwood in Decatur in 2007. But, Carow points out, Adams County kept 650 jobs because AIP stepped in.
“They didn’t go to zero,” he said.
But a Fleetwood plant in Edgerton, Ohio, has gone to zero, and one in Garrett, Ind., almost did when AIP didn’t include them in its purchase. The Edgerton travel trailer plant shut down in March, when Fleetwood declared bankruptcy. Unless a buyer is found, its 175 employees will remain on the street.
Eighty workers at the Fleetwood manufactured-housing plant in Garrett might have faced a similar fate if a group of local investors hadn’t stepped up and bought it this month.
Wally Comer, one of the local investors, said his group has a strategy different from private-equity funds.
He and two partners bought the Garrett plant for $1.75 million, plan to make it profitable and operate it long term. AIP, however, bought the motorhome operation for $53 million and plans to sell it within the decade.
“To them, they don’t want to tie up $2 million to make $1 million in profit,” Comer said. “They’d rather tie up $50 million to make $50 million in profit.”
The difference in philosophies also is illustrated in how employees in Decatur and Garrett were treated, Comer said.
The motorhome workers lost their vacation time and took a 10% pay cut. The manufactured housing workers, now working for Adventure Homes LLC, kept their pay and vacation and got increased bonuses.
That’s because Comer said he and his partners put a premium on maintaining the loyalty of their workforce.
Private-equity owners act only after considering what’s in the company’s best interest, said Lawrence J. Lawson III, managing director of co-founder of Lincoln International LLC, a Chicago-based investment-banking firm.
“What’s in the best interest of the company and what’s in the best interest of the employees aren’t always the same thing,” said Lawson, whose firm advises companies on acquisitions and provides other services.
It’s hard to find numbers showing private-equity’s increasing control of American manufacturing, but there’s broad agreement that’s the case.
“Private equity raised a tremendous amount of capital between 2005 and 2007,” Lawson said.
Not going back
He estimates that private-equity firms worldwide now have $1.5 trillion at their disposal. That means they’re going to buy more businesses — including Midwestern manufacturers, Lawson said.
“There’s more in private hands, and it’s not going to go back down to where it was 20 years ago,” Lawson said.
The slew of industrial bankruptcies in the past year also have created an opportunity for private-equity firms to buy manufacturers.
Investors in private-equity firms are more tolerant of risk than investors in publicly traded companies, said Carow, the IUPUI finance professor. Expecting greater returns, private-equity investors are much more likely to go along with the purchase of parts of a bankrupt company than those who are buying stocks, Carow said.
In fact, some private-equity firms such as AIP specialize in buying and turning around troubled companies. Some buyers specialize in other areas, such as adding market share or making a domestic company an international one, Lawson said.
And because most funds last only 10 years, firms look to buy, make changes and sell companies within five years, Lawson said. That frees private-equity firms from the obsession with quarterly profits faced by publicly traded firms but maintains pressure to produce results.
“There’s a sense of urgency to private equity,” Lawson said.
Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, Thursday (May 14) praised the Small Business Administration (SBA) for expanding the agency’s largest lending program, a decision that will expand access to capital for more than 70,000 additional American small businesses — including many RV and automobile dealerships across the country.
The SBA last week announced an expansion of its 7(a) loan program, effective next week through Sept. 30, 2010, according to a press release. The temporary 7(a) loan size standard will allow businesses to qualify based on net and average income. Under the new rules, a small business qualifies for SBA loan assistance if:
- The company and its affiliates have a net worth not exceeding $8.5 million and
- The company and its affiliates’ net income over the preceding two completed fiscal years does not exceed $3 million after federal income taxes (excluding any carry-over losses)
It is estimated that 50% of RV manufacturers and 75% of RV dealers will now qualify for loans under the SBA’s expanded criteria.
“To turn around our economy and help middle class Hoosiers make ends meet, we have to free up capital for small businesses, which are the primary engine of Indiana’s economic growth,” Bayh said. “This is a significant expansion of the largest federal loan program to help small businesses meet payroll and other operating costs. This move by the SBA will provide a lifeline to Indiana’s auto dealers, parts suppliers, and RV manufacturers and help thousands of middle class families who rely on these industries to make a living.”
“We’re encouraged that the SBA is expanding the definition of businesses that qualify for SBA loans to support investments in working capital, machinery and equipment,” said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). According to Coon, the direct consequence of the current credit squeeze for worthy companies has been lost jobs with RV manufacturers, suppliers and dealers.
“The new loan criteria couldn’t come at a more important time,” Coon added. “When coupled with an emergency rule being considered to permit 7(a) guarantees for dealer floor-plan inventory purchases, these new SBA changes will benefit a large segment of RV manufacturers, dealers and suppliers.”
Bayh continues to urge the SBA to expand the 7(a) loan program to include purchases of floorplan inventory, a change that would provide much-needed working capital for RV dealers and result in the retention of thousands of jobs nationally, including many in Indiana.
For more information about SBA’s revisions to its small business size standards, visit http://www.sba.gov/size/indexwhatsnew.html and click on “Small Business Size Standards.”