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Darryl Searer

Recovering from daunting financial straits a few years ago, the RV/MH Hall of Fame’s debt is expected to drop below the $1 million mark by this year’s Aug. 7 induction ceremonies, reports Darryl Searer, president of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.

“When I volunteered for this position five years ago on the 18th of March, the debt was $5.5 million,” said Searer, who plans to double up payments to $40,000 a month for the time being. “Today, the debt is at $1,121,000, and we’ve been able to double up on our payments for the last three years.”

And prospects look good beyond August as well for the HOF, a shrine of sorts to the RV industry on the northeast side of Elkhart, Ind., that includes a museum, library, offices and event rental facilities doing business as the Northern Indiana Event Center. “Just on the manufacturing housing side, which we call the Kevin Clayton Debt Elimination program, we have pledges in the amount of $340,000 due in the next two years against our final million,” he explained. “In August of 2018 our goal is to be completely out of debt.”

This is well ahead of Searer’s original projections in stepping into the job – a position the former Dometic and Ultra-Fab exec accepted on a pro bono basis — when it looked as if the target for eliminating the debt was 2033.

“At that time,” he joked in an RVBUSINESS.com interview, “I wasn’t sure I was going to live long enough to see this thing paid off. So now the only debt we have is with the bank that we paid off initially, First Source Bank, which has worked very well with us to keep us way ahead of schedule. We are really excited about being a year and four months away from being debt free.”

As the debt is paid off, he added, the RV/MH Hall of Fame’s next “new vision” phase will commence with plans now in place for a rally site including a 20,000-square-foot pavilion and a 60,000-square-foot event center to the east side of the current building near the Indiana Toll Road. We previewed the new vision with a video at last year’s induction ceremony. To view the video click here or scroll to the bottom of the story.

“This time,” Searer noted, “we are going to collect the funds before we break ground because our board of directors has signed a charter stating we will get out of debt and never be in debt again.”

Searer, meanwhile, pointed out that the 2017 class of inductees includes the first Canadian while the Hall’s selection committee is already pouring through 70 to 80 candidates for 2018.

“Our 2017 Induction Dinner celebration begins at 5:30 p.m. with a cash bar cocktail party, followed by the dinner and induction ceremonies at 6:30 p.m.,” said Searer. “I hope a record number of friends and colleagues of the inductees and industry members will join us in honoring these outstanding industry pioneers who have had a major impact on our professions and lives.”

The 2017 RV class includes Edwin Baier, Evergreen RV Supply; Walter Bennett, Thor Industries Inc.; David Gorin, David Gorin Associates LLC, Woody Paylor, Woody’s RV World, Martin “Marty” Shea, Madison RV Supercenter Inc..

Among the MH inductees: Dennis Beadle, Victorian Homes; Christine Lindsey, UMH Properties Inc., Doug Lippert, Lippert Components Inc.; Spencer Roane, Boyd Roane Inc. and founder of Southeastern Community Owners, and Michael Sullivan, Newport Pacific Family of Companies.

In addition to the induction ceremony, the 2017 Golf Classic Fundraiser returns to Elkhart’s Christiana Creek Country Club on the morning of Aug. 7. The event kicks off with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. and then caps off with a luncheon and awards presentation following golf. While the price for golf has been reduced from $200 to $150 per player, Searer said the HOF is still seeking sponsors for the various induction dinner events and golf tournament.