With much of the Midwest and New England in a deep freeze, at the very least the 150 or so RV industry executives heading to the Jan. 14-15 2018 RV Leadership Conference in Tampa, Fla., are looking forward to warmer temperatures.

But beyond that, the annual meeting hosted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) at the Marriott Tampa Waterside Hotel & Marina will feature committee meetings, keynote speakers and a special luncheon focused on the challenges facing the “40 Under 40” leaders.

Liz Crawford

Liz Crawford, RVIA senior vice president of trade shows and events, told RVBUSINESS.com that the conference is shaping up nicely, noting that the event was moved up from its usual March timeframe to coincide with annual committee meetings while also ending the day before the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa begins.

“Our attendance is up over last year and it seems that we have a lot of engagement. We also have more sponsors than last year, so we’re pretty excited about it. Everything looks really, really good for it. We’ve got great speakers on the line, and it’s looking pretty good,” Crawford said.

While Jan 14 is set aside for committee meetings and a welcome reception that evening, Jan. 15 will feature, among a slew of other items, presentations by economist Peter Morici and innovation expert Josh Linkner as well as RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer and RVIA Senior Vice President Marketing Communications James Ashurst, whose topic is “RVIA Rebrand.”

For the “40 Under 40” interactive session, the inaugural group – first recognized at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., last year – will discuss the top challenges they are facing now and in the future. This will be a facilitated session that is intended spark conversations, generate solutions and provide tangible takeaways to implement throughout the industry.

The morning keynote will be delivered by Morici, an emeritus professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and a nationally syndicated columnist whose views appear regularly in MarketWatch, the Washington Times and other major metropolitan newspapers throughout North America, and on the website of Fox and others.

Morici, whose presentation follows a welcome address from RVIA Chairman Bob Parish of Wells Fargo Capital, told RVBUSINESS.com that while he would discuss the general economic outlook and how it bodes for a booming RV industry challenged with production constraints, what he won’t address is any prediction of when the next downturn will commence.

“I can’t tell you that, and I’m not going to pretend that I can,” he said. “Economists are notoriously bad at telling that. Now, if you pay an economist, he’ll give you a forecast. But he’ll want to be paid in advance.”

Peter Morici

Instead, Morici said he plans on discussing the leading trends that will define the global economy over the next decade, an economic outlook for 2018 and 2019, and the key elements of the Trump Economic Program that he said are “positive to the RV industry,”

“The atmosphere is a very good thing in the industry right now. I think that some of the changes we’ve seen will likely benefit them. For example, people are going to have more money in their pockets,” Morici said. “I don’t think what the Fed is doing is negative. We knew we were going to get higher interest rates again someday, but this cycle is going to have an overwhelming bias towards keeping interest rates affordable.”

The afternoon’s docket includes a keynote from Linkner, who told RVBUSINESS.com that his afternoon presentation on tapping into the power of innovation would be “very upbeat and fun.” He added, “It’s not going to be a boring lecture. It’s going to be lots of rich stories and humor. It’s going to be energizing, but also people are going to walk away with some practical tools. I believe these tools will really help people meet the challenges of the day.”

An internationally recognized thought leader, New York Times bestselling author, and top-rated keynote speaker on innovation, creativity, reinvention and hyper-growth leadership, Linkner is the founder and CEO of five tech companies with a combined value of over $200 million. His 27 years of experience and research, Linkner said, helped him identify the five primary mindsets of innovators.

“We’re going to talk about how we can apply each of those mindsets with any challenge,” he said. “It’s not only coming up with a new product, it could be leading production capacity. It could be expanding our ability to deliver more, to become more efficient, to drive more volume.”

Josh Linkner

“Also, it’s about using innovation to stay ahead,” Linkner added. “One of the downfalls people can get into is, in a period like this where we’ve got rocking sales and everyone’s maxed out on capacity, it’s easy to get complacent. You say, ‘It’s going to accrue like that forever.’ We know that success is a temporary state that happens only in the context of many external factors. We can’t rely that the orders will keep flowing forever like this. We’ve got to make sure that we’re not only figuring how to deliver more today, but how to make sure that we continue to create demand for tomorrow.”

The day concludes with a Chairman’s Reception and Dinner Cruise, and the conference itself ends with an RVIA Board of Directors Meeting on Jan. 16.

The 2018 Leadership Conference is sponsored by Erwin Hymer Group, Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, Kentucky Expo Center, Newmar Corp., Dentons, U.S. Warranty Corp, Contoure, Cummins Inc., Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Dometic Corp., Thetford/Norcold, Thor Industries Inc., Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp., Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. and Forest River Inc.

2018 RV Leadership Conference Schedule

Sunday, Jan. 14

8 a.m. – 5 p.m.: RVIA Committee Meetings

6 p.m. – 7 p.m.: 2018 Leadership Conference Welcome Reception

Monday, Jan. 15

7 a.m. – 8 a.m.: RV Leadership Conference Breakfast (sponsored by Newmar)

8 a.m. – 8:10 a.m.: Welcome: RVIA Chairman Bob Parish

8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.: Peter Morici: American Economist and Syndicated Columnist

9:15 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.: Treasurer’s Report: Kevin Phillips

9:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.: RVIA Rebrand: James Ashurst

10 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: Break

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.: President’s Report: Frank Hugelmeyer

11:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.: National Legislative Award: Congressman Dennis A. Ross (R-FL)

11:30 p.m. – 1 p.m.: Luncheon: “40 Under 40” Interactive Session

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.: Josh Linkner: Harnessing Innovation

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Chairman’s Reception

7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.: Chairman’s Dinner Cruise aboard the “Yacht Starship”

Tuesday, Jan. 16

8 a.m. – 1 p.m.: RVIA Board of Directors Meeting