by Sherry Fanning, ORVA founding member
In 2005, there were nearly 4,500 workers in Lane County’s RV industry according to the state’s employment department. By 2009 the financial crisis, credit lock down, escalating fuel prices created a perfect storm which saw the local RV industry shrinking drastically. The demise of Country Coach, LLC and the purchase of Monaco out of bankruptcy by Navistar (and its subsequent relocation of many jobs to Indiana) found Lane Country dealing with the fall-out. Many fringe businesses who had served these RV manufacturers closed their doors as well. Thousands of RV related jobs went away. Resiliency, however, is firmly rooted in the men and women of the great northwest. Richard Coon of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) said a few years ago, “RVs are woven into the fabric of America.” And it is true. Over the past months, there has been a steady rebuilding of momentum as a “new” RV industry has risen from the ashes in a Phoenix-like rebirth in this county. Nationwide as aging baby boomers begin to again give themselves permission to spend their discretionary money, Oregon RV Alliance’s message of the benefits of spending your leisure time (and dollars) in Oregon is more timely than ever.
The Oregon RV Alliance, founded in December 2010, now numbers sixty members, including RV manufacturers, dealerships, service centers, suppliers, local chambers of commerce, community festival organizers, RV resorts, and others. This core group of “cheerleaders” is busy promoting Lane County, its many services, resources and attractions. Shannon Nill of Guaranty RV Center in Junction City has noted, “I thought it was tremendous that Brad Waring, Executive Director of ORVA, would take it upon himself to gather up all the quality elements and put a shine on it and find ways to further network and make sure people know we are open for business in Junction City for motor home sales, service and accessories.” Customers from across the nation are visiting Guaranty in Junction City for attention to their service and sales needs.
Many other businesses happily welcomed RVers back to Oregon this past year.
Motorcoach owners are a loyal group preferring to return to their service center of choice for routine service and maintenance, or for those more involved renovation projects. Oregon Motorcoach Center (OMC), a full service and renovations company in Eugene, finds that the majority of their customers come from out of the area. The business is co-owned by Bob Lee, original founder of Country Coach, Inc. and son-in-law Patrick Mason. Bob Lee is something of a local RV industry icon, co-founding the company that became Monaco Coach in 1968, and starting Country Coach (then Country Campers) in 1973, and an inductee into the RV industry’s RV/MH Hall of Fame. OMC has successfully created a Camp OMC atmosphere at their service facility on Airport Road in Eugene for returning customers and new clients, visiting the area for coach service. Californians John and Barb Grogan have noted they always look forward to catching up with their OMC friends when they make their annual visit back to the service center.
Service business is brisk at Country Coach Corporation (CCC) in Junction City, OR as well. The company keeps a robust inventory of Country Coach parts and fabricates parts on site. CCC owns all intellectual property of the former Country Coach, LLC which closed in bankruptcy in late 2009 and provides invaluable support to Country Coach owners nationwide via telephone technical support. CCC offers a selection of quality consignment motor homes for sale. Situated on several acres of the former Country Coach, LLC manufacturing campus, CCC company owner Ron Lee hopes to one day build Country Coach brand motor homes. (Marathon Coach in Coburg still builds million dollar bus conversions, albeit on a much smaller scale than before the economic downturn. Monaco is manufacturing towables in Coburg and elsewhere across the state several other manufacturers are building towables.)
Premier RV Services, a full service center, pre-owned coach sales facility and indoor storage facility, is also located on several acres of the former Country Coach, LLC campus. Co-owner and Service Manager Gary Obermire noted, “Our customers come to Premier knowing they’ll receive the same level of quality service as when their coach was originally built. House and Chassis service, paint or body repair, or larger renovation projects, whatever is needed, we’re here to serve our motorcoaching friends. While we specialize in Country Coach, all brands are welcomed.” The Premier pre-owned coach sales division has been extremely busy this past year. “With the largest inventory of pre-owned Country Coaches in the U.S., we’re seeing buyers coming in from coast to coast to purchase a well-maintained, hand selected pre-owned Premier motorcoach, or to consign their motorcoach,” Louie Courtemanche, co-owner said.
ORVA member Rob Dickman, owner of the Les Schwab/Bob Dickman Tire Center in Junction City, is a long-time supplier to the RV industry. The business is well known as a highly valued friend of motorcoachers. Rob is an enthusiastic promoter of the many recreation opportunities and the plethora of RV specialists to be found in this area. When motorcoachers are in the area for coach service, they’re visiting Dickman Tire Center to purchase tires and batteries.
Carr Industries, a Veneta company serving RVers cabinetry and countertops needs, recently reported a 40% increase in business year over year. Matt Carr, owner (and former Country Coach, LLC cabinet shop production manager), celebrated 25 years in the industry last year specializing in custom cabinetry and countertops, modifications and upgrades.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a great place to rally, too. Each year there are numerous rally opportunities in Oregon where one can meet old friends and make new friends in a rally setting. For example in July there is a Country Coach Friends Incorporated Club rally scheduled in Harrisburg. 170 motorcoachers are invited to attend a four day event (www.countrycoachfriendsincorporated.com) and to arrive early and linger on after rally’s end exploring in Lane County. Rally organizers will utilize local caterers, wineries, event rental and party stores, coach washing businesses, and a myriad assortment of other RV rally specific vendors. Many ORVA members will be on hand offering service and seminar support at the event. Rally attendees inject the local economy with discretionary spending. Local restaurants, wineries, grocery stores, fuel stations, pet stores and veterinarians, beauty salons and barber shops, art galleries, hardware stores, theaters, large national chain stores, shopping centers, and small boutiques and shops all benefit from RVers coming to Oregon for rally fun, leisure activities and coach care. Visiting RVers restock their motorcoachs with supplies, dine out, attend the theaters, and tour local sites and attractions at great length while in the area. It’s a win-win for both the visiting recreation enthusiasts and the local businesses.
We hope you’ll find the RV Resource Guide a valuable travel companion. ORVA has gathered a comprehensive list of RV related businesses, service providers, area sights and attractions all within the resource guide. Keep it handy in your RV or tow car and consult it often. When you visit the places of business or attractions listed, be sure to tell them you saw them in the ORVA Oregon RV Resource Guide! If you have suggestions regarding what you’d like to see added to our next issue, be sure to let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oregon RV Alliance is a non-profit, all-volunteer group whose funding is provided through advertising in the Oregon RV Resource Guide and annual membership dues: $600 for charter members and $200 for associate members. Anyone interested in joining ORVA or learning more about the organization may do so by calling Bradley Waring at 541-521-4277 or by visiting online at www.come2oregon.com.