A small group of RV industry leaders met Friday (April 21) with Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who succeeded Dan Coats in January, to address an array of legislative and regulatory issues. The hour-long RV Industry Roundtable, organized by public relations executive BJ Thompson, was held at Elkhart’s RV/MH Hall of Fame and essentially served as an introductory session for Young, a 44-year-old Republican attorney from Bloomington, as well as the participating industry executives who represented 88% of U.S. recreational vehicle shipments.
One of the most pressing issues for the participants was the border adjustment tax, a proposed value-added tax on imported goods. Companies serving the RV industry, like electronic component manufacturers who import heavily from countries such as China, would be hurt by this legislative change, as well as those who import Luan or other raw materials from Southeast Asia, attendees pointed out.
But Young told the group that he didn’t feel that passage of that type of legislation was a foregone conclusion. “I’ve been publicly very skeptical about this happening,” said Young, an attorney and graduate of the U.S Naval Academy. “There’s also been a lot of skepticism about this among Senate Republicans, and Democrats seem pretty resistant as well across the board. There is another plan that’s been put forward. I’m not 100% committed either way. I remain open to more information on this topic. There are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Another hot topic was the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) reluctance to utilize specially built recreational vehicles as temporary housing for those displaced during natural disasters – a carryover from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when the industry sent thousands of units to the storm-ravaged South and experienced pushback over formaldehyde outgassing from wood components used to build them.
Other points of discussion were EPA rules that would set greenhouse gas emission standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks, a move that would also affect motorhomes, and the role of public-private partnerships as mechanisms for increasing recreational access to public lands, a relationship that would ideally address backlogged maintenance issues and modernize deteriorating assets, including publicly-operated parks.
Sen. Young told the group that he’d help to address these issues in coordination with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), its legislative RV Caucus and Democratic Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly. He expressed his belief in the importance of the RV industry to the economy of the region and Indiana, and he assured them that he would work to address these topics at both legislative and bureaucratic levels. “There are a lot of things I think I can be doing based on the counsel I received from many of you to make sure that you’ve got more markets, more diversified markets, to make sure that we have the infrastructure out there where you can place your products and to make sure from a regulatory standpoint that you can do what you do uninhibited by the federal government,” concluded Young. “I just want to be helpful — not just a resource, but an activist at every level. I commend you all for collectively coming together and coming up with such a defined policy agenda.”
Those in attendance along with Young included Tom Irions, CEO of ASA Electronics; David Weed, president and CEO of Robert Weed Plywood Corp.; Doug Gaeddert, general manager, Forest River Inc.; Bob Martin, president and CEO, Thor Industries Inc.; Bob Parish, vice president of Wells-Fargo CDF and current RVIA board chairman; Dave Schutz, senior vice president, RV OEM sales, Dometic Americas RV Division; Don Clark, president and CEO of Grand Design Recreational Vehicle Co.; Sherm Goldenberg, publisher, RVBusiness as well as BJ Thompson and Jay Kenworthy, Indiana communications director for Sen. Young.