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Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 12.27.15 PMEditor’s Note: The following a column appearing in the latest edition of RVIA Today authored by Jayco Inc. President and CEO Derald Bontrager, who recently took over as RVIA Chairman.

I’ll start off by saying that I am humbled with the confidence the RV industry has placed in me to lead this great association, known as RVIA. I feel, I’m sure like all other RVIA chairmen before me, that I am filling some pretty big shoes. 

As I think of the two past chairmen just prior to me –Doug Gaeddert and Gregg Fore – they truly are big shoes. They both had similar styles in many ways. There was no issue that they didn’t tackle with anything less than their best effort. And both are very results driven with the ability to be patient enough to make sure all voices were heard. So yes, they are big shoes, but I assure you that while my style may be different, I will be no less driven for results that are for the good of the whole industry. 

RVIA has made great strides over the last several years in developing closer ties with all segments of the industry, particularly RVDA and, more recently, the campground industry. We all need each other so why not sit around the table having an open dialog that seeks to understand each other’s concerns and works toward win/win solutions. We may not always reach that win/win solution in the end but, at the very least, we will have made an honest attempt to listen and understand each other. 

One of the strengths of our industry, in my opinion, is what is commonly referred to as “industry unity.” The unity among RVIA members has been strong for decades. With the recent focus or refocus, I believe the unity among all segments of the industry is being enhanced. I am committed to maintaining the unity that we have and strengthening it where ever and whenever possible. 

RVIA staff has their plates full with everything that is going on right now. The current punch list includes working on many legislative issues at the federal and state level; moving the Technician in Training program from pilot status to a full-fledged program with the goal of being in every state by 2017; addressing continued challenges on the show front; staffing up the Elkhart office; redefining member-ship categories; and the ongoing effort of harmonizing the NFPA1192 and CSA Z240 standards. These are just a few as there are far too many to list. We have the comfort in knowing that we have a professional staff who is dedicated and up to the task.

We are just coming off the California RV Show which by all accounts was very productive. And we will soon see each other in Louisville at the National RV Trade Show, which is shaping up to be another successful event. Exhibit space sales are up over five percent and the number of exhibitors is up over two percent. A new addition to the show this year is a comprehensive series of training sessions geared toward RV Technicians and Service & Parts Managers. I hope to see all of you at the always anticipated and well-attended Outlook 2015 program that kicks off the show on Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 a.m.

These are exciting times to be in the RV industry. Sales are up and, by all indications and forecasts, continued growth can be expected. We are part of an industry that has outpaced the national economic recovery because I believe millions of people dream of experiencing the RV lifestyle. I like to say that while we may manufacture an RV, what we are really selling is the fulfillment of a dream. A dream that every buyer has –no matter if it’s a pop up camper or a million dollar motor home –of owning an RV, hitting the road, and creating fond memories along the way. 

Our challenge as an industry is to continue to raise the bar in everything we do to make sure we don’t shatter that dream and create bad memories.

The challenges facing us are many, but I am confident that with our competent staff, our dedicated board, and the dozens of selfless individuals serving on various committees we are up to the task. I will always welcome phone calls or emails with comments, suggestions and concerns. I look forward to serving the industry in my new capacity.