Emergency efforts to shelter Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the Gulf states has brought a big order to Forest River Inc., including the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder’s plant in Dallas, Ore.
According to a report in the Salem Statesman, Forest River has started building more than 500 travel trailers at its Dallas facility. The production is just part of the 5,000 units Forest River is building companywide, representing an order worth around $50 million, according to the Statesman.
“This is so big. This time we’ve got a chance to participate,” said Tom Martin, the general manager of the Dallas Forest River plant.
Company officials decided to spread the job across Forest River’s manufacturing sites for logistical reasons.
“It’s kind of a balancing act,” Martin said, adding that the company needs to take care of its dealers while it’s building the large, unexpected order headed to the Gulf Coast. Plans call for the Dallas plant to build about 100 of the 32-foot-long trailers a week, he said.
Earlier this month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) alerted RV makers and manufactured housing companies that the agency immediately needed housing for hurricane evacuees. More than 1 million people may have lost their homes in Katrina’s wake.
RV manufacturers, such as Forest River, are selling products to private contractors who, in turn, supply FEMA. Industry estimates on how many trailers FEMA may need range from about 34,000 to 70,000.
The trailers Forest River is building to FEMA specifications include a dining area, kitchen, sofa, a queen bed and two bunk beds. Compared to the models usually made by Forest River, these trailers look plain.
“Obviously, it’s a temporary housing thing,” Martin said.
One other difference between the trailers used for emergency housing and the trailers Forest River builds for recreational campers is the plumbing: The units are equipped with residential toilets that hook into a sewage pipe, not a holding tank.
Forest River has about 385 employees at its plant in Dallas. The company has a total of 5,500 employees at 71 plants across the country.