The RV/MH Heritage Foundation board has announced the names of those who will be inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame as the Class of 2013. According to a press release, the induction ceremonies will be held at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., during the annual induction dinner on Aug. 5.
Darryl Searer, president of the foundation, said, “It is my great pleasure to welcome these new inductees who will join the honored rolls of industry leaders, pioneers and innovators who have made significant contributions the RV and manufactured housing industries. I join their friends, family and colleagues in congratulating the following honorees.”
RV industry inductees include:
• Kirwan Elmers, an RV bus converter from Custom Coach in Columbus, Ohio. Beginning with his father in 1955, he has been for over 50 years a major innovator in the creation of luxury RVs from bus shells. Among the innovations he helped to engineer are the first automatic transmission in an intercity bus shell (1956), first backup camera in a motor coach (1965), first cruise control in a motorcoach (1967) and the first quick change lounge area that automatically converted to a bedroom (1986). He served 10 years as president of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Commercial Council.
• C.M. Fore (deceased) an RV manufacturer from Foretravel, Inc. in Nacogdoches, Texas. Since founding his company in 1967, he has been a leader in the evolution of luxury Class A motorhomes. He was among the first to use diesel engines in motorhomes, and among the first to build pusher chassis. He built the first uni-body motorhomes and pioneered the use of many household features such as multiple air conditioners, central vacuum systems, ice maker refrigerators and more. He led the concept of factory-owned stores by creating factory outlets in major markets around the country.
• Lawrence C. Lippert an RV and MH industry supplier from Lippert Components Inc. in Goshen, Ind. Beginning his company in 1955 with two employees, he built it into the largest component supplier in the industry. The company provides every thing from frames and chassis to roof materials for both homes and RVs. Products have included axles, countertops, mattresses, draperies and furniture. Now a third generation family led company, he is recognized for building a generous corporate citizen employing over 4500 workers in 12 states.
• Mathew Perlot (deceased) an RV manufacturer from Safari Motorhomes in Harrisburg, Ore. For over 25 years Perlot has been recognized as an innovator and leader in the motorhome industry. He pioneered the concept of the affordably priced diesel pusher, and the automatic awning. He was honored as RV Executive of the Year in 1994. He took Safari and Beaver public in 1996 and eventually sold to Monaco.
• Thomas Walworth an RV and manufactured housing industry consultant and statistician from Statistical Surveys Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. Under his leadership, his company has become the recognized official scorecard for sales in both the RV and manufactured housing industries in the U.S. and Canada. He has served for over 20 years on the RVIA Market Information Committee. His data has become relied upon for marketing planning by every major company in either industry.
Manufactured housing inductees include:
• Claude N. Palmer (deceased) a housing retailer from Palmer Homes in Waverly, N.Y. Since 1971 Palmer has provided a source of affordable housing to families in south central New York. He has received top retailer recognition from seven manufacturers. He developed Holly Park Terrace with 99 oversize lots in 1970 and created Custom Modular Homes Company to build upscale state code modular homes. He was the first in his region to offer home/land financing packages.
• Thomas P. Meyers a housing manufacturer from Guerdon Industries in Louisville Ky. For over 50 years he led several housing manufacturers to dynamic and varied growth. Guerdon Industries was the first to enter overseas markets in a significant way with plants and sales in South America, Asia and the Middle East. At its peak, Guerdon was operating 57 plants with 7,000 employees. At Commodore Homes he led 27 factories producing 20,000 floors per year. He founded Meyers and Associates and provided consulting services to manufacturers world wide.
• Theresa M. Desfosses, a housing industry veteran of retail, communities, and manufacturing from State Manufactured Homes in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Since 1968 she has led her company in retail sales of both HUD code and modular homes and the development and management of communities providing over 600 home sites in Maine and New Hampshire. As president of Burlington Homes, a HUD code manufacturer, she is the only woman to be the active leader simultaneously in all three divisions (retail, community and manufacturing). She is a founding member of the Maine MHA and a board member of the Manufactured Association for Regulatory Reform.
• Craig M. Bollman, a housing community developer/operator from Mobile Home Communities in Littleton, Colo. Beginning in the 1960s, he built his community into the first publicly traded land-lease community in the nation. For many years, he was the largest owner of manufactured home communities in the USA. He has served as the housing industry’s representative to the Small Business Administration.
The foundation’s board of directors recently approved a major change in the foundation’s bylaws that simplifies the procedure and criteria for nominations to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
Searer said, “For those who would like to nominate future candidates for the Hall of Fame, we invite you to visit our web site to view the nomination guidelines and to download the necessary nomination forms.”
The RV/MH Hall of Fame will officially dedicate the opening of the Northern Indiana Event Center (NIEC) with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Dec. 13, according to a press release.
The festivities will take place at the South entrance of the RV/MH Hall of Fame complex in Elkhart, Ind., from 5-7 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
Phil Penn, president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce will be among the dignitaries assisting the Northern Indiana Event Center in the ceremony.
NIEC’s Marketing and Sales Manager Stacey Walworth said, “Guests can look forward to door prize drawings, great networking opportunities and information on upcoming events. Those who might be planning an upcoming event, a tour of various event settings will be available upon request.”
Following the ribbon cutting, guests are invited to a light reception, including hors d’oeuvres, cash bar and a champagne toast, sponsored by The Matterhorn Catering.
The Hall recently announced it is doing business as the Northern Indiana Event Center as well as the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
An audience of more than 300 celebrated the induction Monday (Aug. 6) of the 40th anniversary class into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind. Four people from the RV manufacturing, distribution and promotion sector, two from the RV park and campground sector and four from the manufactured housing side entered the Hall, joining some 350 past inductees.
Keynote Speaker David Humphreys issued a call for greater industry unity, saying it is this sense of unity, embodied in the Hall of Fame, that distinguishes the RV industry from all other segments of the travel and tourism industry.
“They envy us, they want one (Hall of Fame),” said Humphreys, who served as president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for 27 years before retiring in 2006.
The Hall of Fame serves many purposes for the industry, Humphreys said. Besides providing a “great consumer attraction,” the Hall of Fame defines an important message for the financial community, the media and legislators and “gives a sense of pride, unity and accomplishment” for the entire industry.
Noting the solid financial footing the Hall of Fame has achieved through the leadership of volunteer President Darryl Searer, Humphreys urged audience members “to give the same priority to the Hall of Fame we give to industry unity.”
In a behind-the-scenes look at the financial status of the Hall and its recovery from near insolvency just a few months ago, Searer declared, “The Hall of Fame has never been in better shape than it is today.”
Searer credited four persons or groups for the Hall’s recovery this year:
• The family of longtime Hall benefactor Robert “Boots” Ingram, which forgave some of the Hall’s debt and issued a $100,000 challenge grant earlier this summer that garnered nationwide support and exceeded the goal by $65,000.
• 1st Source Bank, which extended the Hall’s line of credit by $100,000 and lowered its loan rate by 3 1/4%.
• David and Sharon Woodworth, whose collection of vintage RVs is the focus of the Hall’s museum. The Hall still owes the Woodworths $975,000 for their collection, but the California couple has agreed to forgive $150,000 the Hall owes in interest and will accept a $600,000 payment.
• Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, who agreed to wave the $108,000 owed to the city for city water and sewer services since the Hall opened five years ago.
Overall debt owed by the Hall has been cut by $2.5 million in the past year.
Searer ran down a laundry list of possible expansions for the Hall of Fame property but stressed that nothing will be undertaken to put the Hall further into debt.
William “Bill” Garpow, who concluded his two-year term as chairman of the board of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc., welcomed incoming chairman Barry Cole of Los Angeles, representing the manufacturing housing sector, whose term begins today. Six new members will also join the board today, Garpow added.
Following are highlights of the acceptance speeches by the inductees from the RV industry:
• Bob Olson of Forest City, Iowa, chairman and CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc., noted that he started on the assembly line at Winnebago 43 years ago and thanked the industry in which he made countless friends, many of whom were his competitors. Since retiring in February, Olson and his wife have traveled the U.S. in their Winnebago motorhome. He called RVing “everything it’s cracked up to be.”
• Stanley Sunshine of Atlanta, chairman of Stag Parkway Inc., called himself “the classic middle man” in the distribution process serving the RV industry. He urged industry members to reach out to their customers and find new ways to do business and to “leave the campground better than you found it.” He engendered laughs at the outset when he called out four former Major League baseball players, Raphael Palmero, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, whose inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame are questionable because of their steroid use, saying, “Eat your heart out!”
• Perry Yoder (deceased) of Middlebury, Ind., was a professional motorcycle racer before he entered the RV industry and used the same “courage and tenacity” he showed on the racing circuit to succeed in business, said his daughter, Holly Yoder, who spoke on her family’s behalf. “He led by example, showing every job was important,” she said. Yoder served the RV industry with four manufacturers and with L&W Engineering, a component supplier. In 1975 he patented a slideout mechanism for RVs.
• Edith Lane (deceased) of Deming, N.M., was a daredevil in her early years, being the first woman to parachute from a glider in 1930 at the age of 20. A single mother in later years, she took her two children RVing across the U.S. and later founded the Loners on Wheels club for single RV travelers, which now has chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Lane developed three RV parks targeting single RVers and was a long-time columnist on the RV lifestyle in national consumer magazines. Her children, Laurie Neff and Glenn Lane, accepted the award on behalf of their late mother, who died in 2000.
On the RV park side, Nelson and Mary Emily Jackson, founders of Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, S.C., were inducted posthumously. Speaking for the Jackson family was Johnny Williamson, their son-in-law and now chairman of the Jackson Companies. The Jacksons opened a 30-site campground in 1971 when they were 52 years old, and it has grown to more than 3,400 sites, making it one of the largest RV parks in the East. The Jacksons always stressed the role of families in the operation of their RV park, which they ran for 38 years. “They always said, ‘You have to love the people and your business will be a success.’ And ‘love the people’ they did. For 38 years they were Ocean Lakes Family Campground and ambassadors for the community.”
On the manufactured housing side, inductees were:
• Michael R. Evans of Aberdeen, S.D., Doug Gorman of Tulsa, Okla., Gerald “Jugs” Meuret of Wausau, Wis., the late Ellwood A. Titcomb of Lake Helen, Fla., and Mary Irene Younkin of Columbus, Ohio.
Goshen, Ind.-based supplier Lippert Components Inc. stepped forward with a $10,000 contribution to the RV/MH Hall of Fame’s “Ingram Family’s Matching Challenge,” pushing donations in July to more than $30,000 and $90,055 in total.
According to a press release, Lippert joined Beck Industries President Roy Beck and ex-Thor Industries Inc. executive Bill Fenech, who donated $10,000 and $5,000 respectively, in a July push to fulfill the Hall’s goal of collecting $100,000 by Aug. 31 to help defray the facility’s debt.
The campaign was initiated when the family of Robert “Boots” Ingram established the match challenge in May, then received a shot in the arm when Marcus Lemonis, chairman of Good Sam Enterprises LLC., and Don Wallace, co-founder of Lazydays RV Center, each donated $25,000.
Daryll Searer, president of the RV/MH Hall of Fame, said that with Lippert’s contribution the fundraiser had achieved 90% of its goal, adding, “That leaves only $9,945 to be raised before the Aug. 31 deadline. Everyone at the Hall really appreciates all those who have generously contributed to this campaign.”
According to Searer, 54 individuals, companies and organizations have contributed to the $100,000 challenge with donations ranging from $5 to $25,000. The see a complete list of donor so far, visit www.rvmhhalloffame.org/Ingramdonorreport.cfm.
Searer said, “I’m hopeful that we can reach our goal by Aug. 6, which is the date of the Class of 2012 Induction Dinner and Annual Golf Classic. It would be a great addition to the celebration to be able to announce during those ceremonies that we have reached our goal ahead of schedule.”
All of the challenge grant contributions will go toward paying down the Hall’s bank loan at 1st Source Bank and all gifts are tax deductable.
Searer said, “I encourage everyone to attend this year’s induction dinner. Come and see first-hand our progress in bringing the Hall back from the brink.”
For those who would like to make reservations for the induction dinner and/or the golf classic — or to make a contribution toward the Ingram family’s $100,000 challenge grant, please visit the Hall’s secure web site, www.rvmhhalloffame.org. Reservations or donations can also be made by mail, phone or fax. If paying by check or money order, make payable to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum launched a new fundraising campaign in May to lower its bank loan from 1st Source Bank by $200,000. According to a news release, the goal is to raise $100,000 in voluntary contributions by August 31.
The Boots Ingram family has put up a $100,000 challenge grant for the purpose of lowering the Hall’s bank loan, in effect doubling the amount contributed.
Darryl Searer, president of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation, said, “The Ingrams continue to show their support for the Hall, and their generosity in making this challenge should inspire everyone concerned about the long-range health of our wonderful facility to pitch in and help.”
Gifts may be made by mail, in person at the Hall, by phone at 800-378-8694, or on the Hall web site: www.rvmhhalloffame.org. Since the foundation is 501c non-profit organization, all gifts are tax deductible.
Searer said, “Time is limited since the Ingram challenge ends in August, so I encourage anyone who can to make their gift early. While we wouldn’t turn away a large donation, in reality, no gift is too small because we would like to see industry members as well as those who enjoy the RV lifestyle participate in this fund raiser. We all benefit from the Hall which not honors industry leaders, but also preserves our heritage and legacy through the Museum and Library.
To make a contribution by mail, send your gift by check or money order to:
RV/MH Hall of Fame
21565 Executive Parkway
Elkhart, IN 46514.
Camping World Chairman Marcus Lemonis has a plan that he believes will help ease both the short-term and long-term pain for the financially strapped RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.
And Lemonis, following his Sunday night “Celebrity Apprentice” appearance on national TV, is preparing to present that plan to a handful of industry players in a Tuesday (March 22) conference call.
In an effort to help the Hall meet its current financial obligations while also guaranteeing the facility’s long-term viability, the Chicago-based executive is essentially pledging a combined total of up to $325,000 — an amount that, in the final analysis, would make Camping World and the Good Sam Club one of the hall’s larger supporters.
“For starters, I propose a $100,000 grant from the Good Sam Club for naming rights for something at the hall that we would determine at a future date,” he said. “Additionally, we would contribute one-half percent of the Good Sam Club membership revenue going forward as an annual contribution from Good Sam members.”
As Lemonis noted, this contribution — driven by the Good Sam Club’s membership base — would fluctuate. But he also placed a minimum on the dollar amount. “It would be no less than $75,000 annually,” he added, noting that the Good Sam Club currently has a roster of approximately 880,000 members.
Lemonis also proposes the addition of a Camping World accessory store as a tenant of the hall, with its annual rent equal to the facility’s projected 2011 operating budget deficit, “not to exceed $150,000.” As envisioned by Lemonis, the Camping World retail outlet would be housed inside the hall’s existing infrastructure, not in a separate building, and would encompass only the company’s accessory items. “It would not include any portion of the RV sales business,” he said.
In order to ensure other revenue streams for the hall in addition to the Camping World and Good Sam Club contributions, Lemonis noted that his proposals are not without a few caveats.
“First, I would like the annual pledge by the Go RVing Coalition (to the Hall of Fame) to be paid on time, as promised,” Lemonis noted. “Also, I would like to see $2 from every Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) seal to go towards the operating budget of the hall. I believe that RV dealers across the country see the value in the Hall of Fame, and it’s the dealers who actually pay for those seals.”
The cost of the seals, lowered as of the first of the year to $20 per RV regardless of type, help to finance the Go RVing Coalition’s media and promotional buys for the year.
Lemonis also suggests adding more members to the Hall of Fame’s board of directors. “I’m not dictating who they should be,” he said, “but I think the board needs some fresh, new members who would provide business oversight and direction.”
Lastly, he pointed out the need for a show of support from the rest of the RV industry. “I’d like to see the Hall be able to raise on its own — from other manufacturers and suppliers — $250,000,” he continued. “I’ll do everything I proposed. But others also have to bring something to the table to help ensure that the Hall becomes and remains viable.”
Following a summer that saw attendance jump at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum as the RV industry celebrated its 100th Anniversary, the 2010 Benefit Raffle to support the RV/MH Hall of Fame, Museum and Library is now underway.
Tickets for the raffle are $100 each with a maximum of 2,500 tickets to be sold. The drawing is scheduled for Dec. 14 with a total of 100 prizes to be awarded. First prize is a new 2011 motorhome or manufactured home or $75,000 cash, according to a news release.
Tickets can be purchased online at the Hall of Fame website (www.rvmhhalloffame.org) or by contacting the Hall of Fame offices at (800) 378-8694.
In event that less than 2,500 tickets are sold, entry proceeds will be divided 50/50 and all prizes will be prorated between winners and the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
Editor’s Note: The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) provided this update on its centennial celebration in the current issue of RVIA Today Express.
RVIA hosted a webinar Friday (Dec. 11) to discuss plans for a year’s worth of celebrations marking the industry’s centennial year in 2010. More than 20 representatives of RV and campground associations and a phalanx of trade media representatives participated in the webinar, as RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella outlined RVIA’s planned events and encouraged the industry to take initiative in scheduling their own celebrations.
LaBella emphasized that the centennial celebrations will be a terrific way for the industry to demonstrate unity, and groups can also involve consumers in their celebratory events. “The Centennial is an industrywide celebration that will continue throughout 2010 – including at the 48th National RV Trade Show – and help lift the industry’s spirits as it draws positive attention to RVing, helping us stress a positive message about the industry to counteract the difficult economic conditions we have faced,” he said.
After reviewing details of the RV Centennial Media Tours scheduled for spring, LaBella outlined new events being planned for the centennial including RV Centennial Celebration Month, set for June. RVIA is working to have official proclamations issued from both President Obama and the Congress identifying it as such, and he encouraged industry members to reach out to their state and local governments to have similar proclamations made.
RV Centennial Celebration Month will be highlighted by RVIA’s all-industry party, being held June 7, during RVIA’s Committee Week and Annual Meeting, at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart. LaBella reported that the party will be an evening event featuring videos to mark the industry’s centennial and culminating in the enshrining of an industry time capsule that will be featured at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum for years to come.
In fact, the centennial will be a guiding theme at next year’s Committee Week, with events and speakers scheduled throughout the event. RVIA will invite President Obama, who has shown a particular interest in the RV industry, as well as other political leaders, to help celebrate with the industry and speak at the event.
LaBella also announced that a Centennial Mascot will soon begin a nationwide tour of retail RV shows and manufacturing plants. Show promoters and RV manufacturers, suppliers, and campgrounds will receive information from RVIA in January about how to include the mascot at industry events.
LaBella said, “I encourage all RV manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, campgrounds, owner groups and publishers to schedule their own celebrations on a large or small scale.” He urged them to visit www.RVCentennial.org for a treasure trove of free resources including an online message board that has been specially designed for the industry to facilitate an exchange of centennial celebration ideas among colleagues. The website also hosts the four-minute RV Centennial video, which members are encouraged to download and share, and downloadable centennial logos and images of antique RVs. LaBella encouraged the industry to use all of these materials in any way they wish.
The RV Centennial is an industrywide, year-long celebration to celebrate the industry’s rich history and promising future. The year 1910 has been identified as the beginning of the RV industry when the first mass-produced, manufactured auto campers and camping trailers– the forerunners of today’s RVs – were built.