Tim Howard, founder and president of Thor Industries Inc.’s Breckenridge Division, a recreational park trailer builder in Nappanee, Ind., will retire Feb. 1.
Howard announced his retirement Wednesday (Jan. 5) in an e-mail to about 150 friends and business associates.
”I’ve been in the industry since 1977 in one way or the other,” Howard told RVBUSINESS.com. ”It’s wonderful to be able to go do things that I want to do. The industry has given me a wonderful 35 years and the opportunity to pursue other interests as I retire.”
Breckenridge National Sales Manager Denise Walsh will become general manager and Vice President Junior Doty will become vice president of operations.
”Both have years of experience at Breckenridge and they are the best in the business,” Howard said.
Howard, 57, founded Breckenridge in 1991 as a stand-alone division of Damon Corp. after a 10-year stint with Mallard Coach Corp. and shorter periods of employment with Coachmen Industries Inc. and Georgie Boy Manufacturing Inc.
At the time, Damon was owned by Don Pletcher, a well-known industry executive.
”The idea was to create an autonomous company within a company,” Howard said. ”They had their resources in place, which made the fundamentals of starting a new enterprise very smooth. They already had a design department, an accounting department and other things that helped us as a startup.”
Breckenridge, currently with about 100 employees, down from a high of around 200, operated as a Damon division until after Damon was acquired by Thor in 2003 and functioned as a unit of Thor Motor Coach until a couple of years ago when it became part of Thor’s Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.
Howard, who sold his ownership stake in Breckenridge in 2003 when Thor purchased Damon, said he has no immediate plans in retirement other than to spend time with his wife, Judi, in their permanent home in Goshen, Ind., and summer home in St. Joseph, Mich.
”I have been involved in the community and local church and I want to pick and choose what I do,” Howard said.
He hasn’t ruled out a return to the RV industry. ”It could be fun helping some friends in the industry if they needed help,” he said. ”I would be interested if it would be fun.”
Acknowledging that the park trailer sector currently ”is not thriving,” Howard said that he delayed retirement longer than he might have because he didn’t want to leave Breckenridge in the lurch in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
”I’ve planned for a long time for this stage of my life,” he said. ”I didn’t want to retire when the industry was facing a full-blown hurricane. I chose this time to retire because the trajectory of the park model industry right now is very, very good. Everything is going in the right direction.”