A locally-based development company is looking to draw in a wider range of companies for September’s Elkhart County RV Open House by expanding availability of lots tailored to smaller manufacturers along the Executive Parkway “gauntlet.”
Northland Corp., which is leasing space for the fourth year on the prime acreage leading to Thor Industries Inc.’s expansive exhibit area at the RV/MH Hall of Fame, has sectioned off two areas that will accommodate 19 OEM displays. Currently, 11 sites remain open, according to Northland Vice President Rob Letherman.
“Following last year’s Louisville Show, I talked to a lot of the bigger manufacturers,” Letherman told RVBUSINESS.com. “They told me the goal is to get companies outside the immediate Elkhart area involved in the Open House. Manufacturers felt like it was an Elkhart-only event, but that’s not the case. It’s a key RV show for the industry that attracts a ton of dealers.”
The idea became more feasible for Northland after three tenants on the “gauntlet” pulled out for 2015.
“Everyone is grandfathered in and are guaranteed their location every year as long as no development occurs,” Letherman said. “But we lost Cruiser RV and Skyline Corp. due to acquisition by Thor and EverGreen RV, respectively. And then Augusta RV decided not to participate. We did pick up Allied Recreation Group for one of the larger lots on Executive Parkway.”
Available sites are located directly on Executive Parkway or on the northwest corner of CR 6 and CR 17. Companies already committed include Little Guy Worldwide, Cricket Trailers, ATC Trailers, Travel Lite, Jumping Jack Camper Trailers, Riverside Travel Trailer, Aliner/Somerset and Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc.
“All we provide is the land,” explained Letherman. “The companies are responsible for bringing any equipment or amenities they need like generators or tents. We do offer a list of local companies that can supply all those items so they can reserve in advance. We also supply maps on-site, and, if we can squeeze it in on time, we’re going to provide Wi-Fi capabilities this year.”
Initiated by Forest River Inc. in 2009, the Open House has matured into a mainstay on the RV trade show circuit with this year’s edition set for Sept. 22-24, although a number of companies will likely be hosting Open House-related activities throughout the week. Last year, the Open House boasted nearly 60 RV manufacturer and supplier displays and attracted more than 4,000 attendees from RV dealerships across the U.S. and Canada.
Letherman contends that in addition to boosting business for participating OEMs the event also gives area businesses a shot in the arm.
“From Northland’s standpoint, the Open House is a huge draw for Elkhart County,” he said. “It’s great across the board for our local business community, giving them a high influx of business throughout the week.
“The feedback I hear from OEMs is also decidedly positive,” he added. “The main concern is weather, but dealers enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere. I never expected the show to get as big as it has. It has definitely taken on a role of its own in this area.”