derald bontragerEditor’s Note: The following is an RVIA Today column by Derald Bontrager offering details on the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Annual Meeting held in early March while previewing Committee Week, set for May 31-June 4. Bontrager is president and CEO of Jayco Inc. and also serves as RVIA chairman.

Spring at RVIA finds us in between two of the association’s most important events – the Annual Meeting and Committee Week.

The Annual Meeting held in Sarasota, Fla., in early March was a tremendous success as current and future industry leaders gathered to discuss association and industry issues. The event kicked off with the traditional RVIA Board of Directors meeting and was followed by an informational and inspiring day filled with compelling presentations that focused on changing market demographics, new trends in the automotive industry that will impact our market, and, the tremendous work that RVIA is conducting on behalf of the membership to promote and protect the RV industry.

There was also ample opportunity to network with industry peers. The Annual Meeting is a fantastic opportunity to introduce your company’s future leadership to RVIA and to meet influential leaders of the industry. I urge all of you to plan ahead for next year and experience all this great event has to offer you and your business.

Coming quickly on the heels of the Annual Meeting is Committee Week 2015, taking place May 31–June 4 in Washington, D.C. This is a vitally important week for the association and the industry. Committees that represent all areas of the RV industry – government affairs, marketing and communications, industry education, market data, and RV standards – meet to determine priorities for the coming year. These projects and priorities are then dollarized and included in the proposed budget for consideration by the RVIA Board that funds the upcoming fiscal year.

Committee Week is the first step in the process that determines where, why and how association funds will be invested to advance the RV industry, and it’s important for members to have a voice in this process. If you are not currently serving on one of RVIA’s standing committees, I encourage you to find out how you can become involved. We need diversity in age, gender, race, and industry segments on RVIA committees in order to keep progressing with new and innovative ideas.

One of the highlights of Committee Week is RVIA’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, taking place on June 3. This event provides the great opportunity to meet with your member of Congress or key staff members to thank them and educate them on the RV market so they can become an advocate for the industry. If you can spare an extra day to participate in this event, you won’t regret it.

This year Capitol Hill Advocacy Day will be capped by the inaugural reception honoring the Senate RV Caucus with special guests Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), who are co-chairs of the group. The event will also include other distinguished guests from the U.S. Senate, Capitol Hill staff, allied trade associations, and RV industry leaders.

Last July, there was a similar kickoff event for the House RV Caucus, which is co-chaired by Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL).

Having both a Senate and House RV Caucus is a real boost to RVIA’s efforts at the federal level. The groups help educate members of Congress on the value of the RV lifestyle, highlight the economic benefit the RV market provides across the country, and find common ground on matters of concern to the RV industry. If you know any of these members of Congress make sure you thank them for supporting this very important effort being spearheaded by RVIA staff.

I’m sad to report that this will be Richard Coon’s last Committee Week as head of RVIA. He announced at the Annual Meeting that he is retiring on Oct. 1 this year. Richard has done an exemplary job in leading RVIA for the last decade, and he will be greatly missed. I have put together a search committee and we are well into the process, having interviewed several outstanding candidates.

Leading RVIA is a coveted position due in large part to the tremendous products and lifestyle the RV industry offers as well as the vibrant membership that provides dedicated support to the association. I’m confident by the end of the search process, we will have identified a talented leader who will continue to add to RVIA’s outstanding legacy.

In closing I would like to thank all the volunteers who serve on the board and various committees. Without you and the support you receive from your companies, the association would not function as well as it does.