Former MARVAC Tim DeWitt receives the David J. Humphries Award at RVIA Conference

Former MARVAC Executive Director Tim DeWitt receives the David J. Humphries Award at RVIA Leadership Conference

Today’s (Mar. 2) morning session of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 2017 Leadership Conference – formerly known as the RVIA Annual Meeting – in Boca Raton, Fla., featured a flurry of good reports on the overall performance and outlook of the U.S. recreational vehicle arena.

But one of the more interesting turn of events to emerge from the annual event at the Boca Raton Resort wasn’t one of the top-line items in the main Membership Meeting presentations from Wells Fargo Senior Economist Eugenio J. Aleman, RVIA Chairman Bob Parish, RVIA Treasurer Kevin Phillips, Cairn Consulting President Scott Bahr or Charles V. Payne, founder and CEO of Wall Street Strategies.

Instead, some might argue, it came in a rather brief mention near the end of RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer’s upbeat address in a Power Point slide presentation indicating that the RVIA board of directors was mulling over — at least on a preliminary basis — taking another look at the possibility of joining forces with the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) to create a “unified RV industry week.”

In fact, both Hugelmeyer and RVDA President Phil Ingrassia told RVBUSINESS.com during a break in the action that they were cautiously optimistic about the possibility of the industry’s two lead trade associations again sitting down to explore the idea of partnering in a single late-year trade exposition combining RVIA’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., with RVDA’s Con/Expo in Las Vegas.

Frank Hugelmeyer

“We’re talking about how we would take the (Louisville) show and move it to the next level of value,” said Hugelmeyer. “And so the conversations are how do we create a show as exciting and as vibrant as the industry is, and it needs to match that. And so everything should be on the table, and that includes looking at how we work with other industry associations to create an industry week type of event.”

For his part, Ingrassia, whose trade group last held serious negotiations with RVIA in 2015 regarding a combined show, said his board hasn’t seriously discussed the matter lately but plans to address the subject at its next meeting.

“Every year the RVDA board gets together, and we talk about strategic planning and, obviously, meetings and shows are a part of that,” explained Ingrassia. “And the board has consistently talked about working with industry partners on meetings and making it more effective for everybody. So, it’s all very preliminary.

“There haven’t been any formal discussions, but the concept is still out there,” he added. “And the guidance that our board has given me is to listen and that’s where we’re at right now. We’re open to listening to and working with all of our industry partners on events, and we will be discussing those issues again when the RVDA board meets in three weeks.”

During the session RVIA also presented its annual awards which included:

RV Distinguished Service Award:

Richard Coon for his record of contributions to the industry as an executive with Onan/Cummins and as RVIA president from 2006–2016. The Distinguished Service Award is the association’s highest honor and is presented to an individual within the industry who has set himself apart by outstanding service.

Legislative Award:

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia for their work as co-sponsors of the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016, which was passed and signed into law late last year. This new piece of legislation requires the Department of Commerce, in collaboration with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, to assess and analyze the contributions of the outdoor recreation industry, including RV travel and camping, to the United States economy.

Education Service Award:

Debbie Brunoforte, owner of Little Dealer, Little Prices, to recognize her advancement, education and certification of RV service technicians and her service on the RVDA/RVIA Certification Governing Board, and as co-chair for the RV Service Training Council where she has played a key role in developing the programs and strategies to advance industry education efforts.

RV Standards Award:

Leo Akins of Forest River Inc. who has been a strong supporter of the RVIA and the Standards Department for many years, and has been actively engaged with the majority of RVIA Standards program activities. Atkins’ knowledge and experience in the areas of standards, warranty and customer service has been vital in assisting association staff and providing the Standards Steering Committee with key insight in the development of polices.

RVIA Special Award:

Dave Schutz of Dometic who has been a member of the RVIA board since 2013 and also chaired the Awards Committee and Nominating Committee. He is a member of the Trade Show and Events Committee, the Public & Legislative Affairs Committee, the China Committee, the Membership Committee and the RVDA/RVIA Certification Governing Board. Schutz has also chaired the Market Information Committee since 2011.

David J. Humphries Unity Award:

Tim DeWitt, who recently retired as the longtime executive director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVC). During his tenure with MARVC, Dewitt worked to advance the RV industry in Michigan along with his members comprised of RV dealers, manufacturers and campgrounds. At the national level, he was instrumental in the development and implementation of industry education, training and certification programs to create a better service experience for customers while also serving on the Go RVing Coalition.