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Stinnett Blames Economy for Downsize Move

November 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Tom Stinnett

Tom Stinnett

The Tom Stinnett RV Freedom Center is planning to move back to the Kopp Lane location in Clarksville, Ind., it left more than a decade ago.

Owner Tom Stinnett said the move is necessary because of the fact that the recreational vehicle industry has shrunk in the last few years, the Jeffersonville News and Tribune reported.

“It’s still a good business, but it’s just a smaller good business,” Stinnett said in an interview last week.

Stinnett has been selling RVs in Clarksville, a southern Indiana city located on the Ohio River across from Louisville,  for 32 years. He moved the company to its current location, at 520 Marriott Drive, after improvements to Interstate 65 took a portion of his property on Kopp Lane about 12 years ago. He hung on to the property at 560 Kopp Lane. Now, he plans to build a smaller building and move back to that location sometime next spring.

“This facility is a wonderful facility,” he said of the seven-acre property on Marriott Drive.

About 2 1/2 acres of the property are under roof, he noted, creating a huge showroom for the large vehicles. At this point, it’s unclear how the property will be marketed, but Stinnett speculated it could be used for warehousing, distribution or retail, considering the size.

Following record-breaking years in the middle of the last decade — with 2006 being the best year for RV shipments in a quarter century — the industry took a major hit in 2008 at the start of the recession, according to Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), located in Reston, Va.

Part of the problem was credit.

“At the end of 2008, you could not get a loan at all,” said Broom.

That was in spite of the fact that RV loans — typically made to people with financial holdings and high credit scores — default with less frequency than traditional loans.

Consumer confidence — struck by shaky markets, high unemployment and other economic peril — also played a major role at the time as consumers held on to the major discretionary dollars needed for an RV purchase, he said. The industry now seems to be on the upswing, with 2010’s RV shipments up over last year’s numbers.

“It’s a better year than the previous two,” Broom said, noting that industry officials project growth over the next two years. “It’s certainly better to be going up.”

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