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Parking was at a premium this morning as nearly 1,000 people were treated to a range of news, data and other information at the 7th Annual RV Industry Power Breakfast held at the Northern Indiana Events Center, part of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.

Keynoting this year’s breakfast was first-term Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb along with nationally syndicated economist Peter Morici, whose appearance was sponsored by Wells Fargo CDF. 

With members of the state legislature and other dignitaries joining him on stage, Holcomb signed into law the Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 130, which classifies RV drive-away drivers as independent contractors and exempt from unemployment and worker compensation.

In addition, Holcomb — who said the state of Indiana is known as much for being the “RV Capital of the World” as it is for being the home of the Indy 500 and Larry Bird — provided an update on a number of statewide initiatives, such as job training and an assessment of the current state of affairs. “We’re in a very strong position and we’ll maintain the growth for the foreseeable future,” said Holcomb, who was interviewed on stage by Bob Montgomery, WSBT-TV news anchor.

Morici touched on a number of economic trends and political factors during his presentation, which many times leaned in support of President Donald Trump’s domestic and foreign policy stances — especially with respect to use of tariffs. Morici also offered his forecast — 475,000 units — for what RV wholesale shipments could total in 2020, citing a variety of economic factors in making his determination.

Other presenters included U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-2nd District.), National RV Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia, RV Industry Association (RVIA) President Frank Hugelmeyer, RVIA Chairman Garry Enyart of Cummins Inc., and Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) CEO Toby O’Rourke.

Walorski, who appeared via a taped message from Washington, D.C., touched on her role as part of the House’s RV Caucus highlighting the efforts she is making to deal with issues impacting RV manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and dealers, including tariffs. 

“Steel and aluminum tariffs are driving up costs and adding unnecessary red tape for manufacturers,” she noted. “Retaliation is putting American businesses and farmers in the cross hairs, and now President Donald Trump’s administration is considering tariffs on cars and auto parts. These would be disastrous for RV makers because there would be no distinction between a component that’s used in a car and the same part in an RV.” 

As part of the solution Walorski pointed to a bill that she supports in the House, which aims to reform the Section 232 tariff process. “It ensures that tariffs are only used when necessary to protect our national security and giving Congress an up or down vote on any new 232 tariffs,” she explained.  

During his time on stage, Ingrassia offered an overview of RVDA activities, reaffirmed the association’s support of the RV Technical Institute, and ended with a plug for the group’s Convention/Expo in Las Vegas later this year.

Hugelmeyer, meanwhile, also touched on a variety of current initiatives including announcing the location of the RV Technical Institute, which will be an 18,000-square-foot facility in Elkhart. Although the building will require minimal modifications, it already has seven classrooms as well as an 8,000-square-foot shop space with 17-foot ceilings.

In addition, Hugelmeyer announced a $3 million GoRVing sponsorship of the upcoming “Toy Story 4” movie from Disney/Pixar, which this time has the familiar characters embarking on an RV trip.

Enyart related the role RVing has played with his family and friends, who have adopted the RV lifestyle with gusto. In reference to certain headwinds the industry is facing, he noted, “Yeah, there’s some clouds outside right now but pretty soon we’ll see blue skies again.” 

For her part, O’Rourke spent time going through key figures from the 2019 North American Camping Report, which was released in late April. She also rehashed some of the details of KOA’s “Campground of the Future,” which was unveiled at RVIA’s RVX: The Experience in mid-March. “All of our data shows that there is no indication that consumer interest in camping and RVing is slowing down,” she highlighted. 

Also, O’Rourke invited Thor Industries Inc. President Bob Martin on stage to jointly announce the “Pick Up America” campaign. (see related story for more details)

The Power Breakfast was co-sponsored by the RVIA, Airxcel, Wells Fargo CDF, Thor Industries Inc., KOA, Dometic, Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest River Inc., Spartan Motors Inc. and Cummins Inc.