The Recreational Vehicle Aftermarket Association (RVAA) has hired a full-time executive director with extensive background in association management and moved its headquarters from Chicago to a suburb of Harrisburg, Pa.
“We want to elevate the relevance of the RVAA, not just for our membership but also for the industry as a whole,” said Karl J. Etshied, 39, the RVAA’s first full-time employee.
“We’ve put together some proposals that are going to fine-tune our committee structure to make our member input actually matter. That’s the launch pad. After that we can start to build some programs that will help the industry.”
The 30-year-old association, formerly known as the Warehouse Distributors Association (WDA), has 120 members, including 28 distributor firms, 74 manufacturers/suppliers and 14 manufacturers’ representatives.
Previously, it was administered by a Chicago-based association-management company. Its day-to-day activities were directed by Jim Stanley, who has retired.
“The board wanted to move from being a piece of the pie for an association management company to one person who was fully dedicated to managing the association,” Etshied said.
The hiring of Etshied and the name change, which occurred earlier, originated from a strategic plan approved by the association’s board two years ago to increase the association’s standing in the industry.
In a new twist, Etshied said he recently began attending monthly meetings with the staff of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
He also plans major changes to the RVAA’s website www.rvaftermarket.org, including adding a password-protected, members-only area, which should be completed this month.
Additionally, Etshied has begun to distribute a monthly report to RVAA directors on RV industry activities. “I want the industry and my directors to hear from me consistently,” Etshied said.
Prior to joining the RVAA, Etshied was programs manager for the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Association (PRVCA) and coordinated PRVCS’s apprenticeship program with Northampton Community College for RV service technicians. Earlier, he worked as a statehouse lobbyist and director of publications for the Pennsylvania Automotive Association, marketing director for the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union and marketing director for the American Automobile Association of Southern Pennsylvania.
Plans also are in the works, he said, to establish a 24-hour-a-day resource center for dealers and a comprehensive technical training program on members’ products.
“Obviously, one of the great strengths of our members is the training that they can offer,” Etshied said. “We’ve got to find a vehicle to get that training to dealers.”
He said the RVAA will continue to sponsor a three-day fall executive conference. The conference serves as a forum for suppliers and distributors to meet face to face, and, is the RVAA’s most significant annual industry event.