Forest River Inc. executives overseeing the company’s western operations are readying to welcome more than 200 dealer personnel to its 8th Annual Dealer Open House, designed to showcase 2019 product while also reinforcing and rebuilding relationships with a growing dealer network.
The gathering, slated for Aug. 22-23, is being moved this year from the company’s Harrisburg, Ore., complex to Spirit Mountain Grand Ronde located about a half-hour from Portland.
“We wanted to give our dealers more of an entertainment setting,” reported Steve Roitstein, sales manager for Forest River facilities in Dallas and Harrisburg, Ore. “After conducting business, they will be able to relax and enjoy all the facility has to offer including nightly entertainment, gambling and a couple of sports bars. In the past they would come look at RVs and then head home.”
While the focus of the event is to write orders, Forest River management is equally intent on interacting and gaining feedback from its dealer partners.
“In addition to showing our new lines, the Open House is also an opportunity to reconnect with our dealers,” said Paul Eskritt, a former Fleetwood executive who serves as general manager for the company’s Dallas and Harrisburg plants. “We kind of take the same mentality as the original Open House that (Forest River CEO) Pete Liegl started in Elkhart. We obviously want to sell RVs, but, just as important, we want to solidify our relationships with the dealers.
“We try to provide a team building scenario, offering parts, service and warranty seminars while our biggest vendors and members of the RV Industry Association (RVIA) will be on site. We also want dealers to interface directly with our warranty, parts and finance personnel. There are a lot of folks behind the scenes, and it’s crucial for our dealers to get to know them.”
Roitstein added, “We also want to hear what they have to say about product and how we do business. It helps us be more efficient and lets us understand how we can help them more. We want to be like family, supporting them and their endeavors to support their retail customers.”
Roitstein told RVBUSINESS.com that Forest River will be showing more than 35 brands and 130 units this year on the casino grounds. “All of our 2019 product lines will be on display,” he said, noting that the West Coast division was strictly involved in towable production. “We will have new models, new floorplans and a ton of new features.
“For those dealers that will also go to September’s Elkhart Open House, it gives them a bit of a jumpstart on picking up new brands and new lines. They will be able to see things first and take some models off the market before the product is shown in Indiana.”
In line with the industry, Forest River’s western operations have significantly grown in the past few years. “As the market has continued to grow, we have kept pace by strategically expanding our building capacity,” said Eskritt. “All of our West Coast business units have expanded facilities. I’d say we have close to doubled capacity from five years ago while total staffing is approaching 1,500 employees.”
Eskritt noted that Forest River’s West Coast division comprises three RV sites in Oregon, including the newest campus in Sheridan, along with facilities in Rialto and Hemet, Calif. The company also operates cargo plants in Independence and Silverton, Ore.
“All of the brands we build are for the Western third of U.S. and Canada. The markets are really taking off, and we are focused on growing production to meet that spike in sales,” he said. “The open house in Oregon has become our biggest selling event, so it give us a good gauge for where we are in terms of overall demand and where the hot spots are in the market.”