The power of the Internet has caused regional RV maker Northwood Manufacturing Inc., La Grande, Ore., to expand production into Kentucky from its home base in the Pacific Northwest.
"Because of the Internet, we get a lot of calls from the East," said Northwood President Ron Nash. "A lot of people didn't know that we were strictly a West Coast company. Building a plant in Kentucky will let us be closer to where our market has been moving."
Northwood's shifting geographic market has resulted in the company building a 75,000-square-foot plant that will open in early spring in Monticello, Ky. The new plant will nearly double Northwood's work force to 535 people, most of them involved in the manufacturing of Nash travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers and the more upscale Arctic Fox travel and fifth-wheel trailers and truck campers.
"We look for the market to be every bit as strong in Kentucky as it is in Oregon," Nash said. "We hope that by the second year, we will be producing 2,500 units in Kentucky."
The easing of pressure on production in Oregon will allow Northwood to expand into light-weight and sport-utility trailers (SURVs) in 2001, Nash said.
Nash, a former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. executive, didn't figure it would come to this when he left the RV giant to start his own company in 1993. "Realistically, when I left, I thought I'd build 400 or 500 units a year and spend a lot of time camping," Nash said.
Northwood built and sold 690 trailers the first year, and business has grown steadily since. In 1999, Northwood produced approximately 3,800 RVs. In addition to travel and fifth-wheel trailers, the company offers truck campers in the Arctic Fox line in lengths ranging from 8 1/2 feet to 11 1/2 feet — all equipped with slideouts.
Northwood has built its reputation manufacturing rugged units for off-road and year-round use in the Pacific Northwest. "We've always used heavy-duty undercarriages, wheel axles, tires and insulation and bigger tanks," Nash said.
Both brands — 23 models in the Nash line and 20 Arctic Fox models — sit on the company's own heavy-duty chassis. They are framed with wood and insulated with R-18 fiberglass. Arctic Fox is an upgraded version of the Nash with solid oak doors, heated and enclosed holding tanks, satellite TV hookups and high-grade fabrics.
Nash said he sells more small 22-foot travel trailers than any other length. The second most popular size is a 29-foot fifth-wheel with opposing double slideouts. Slideouts are available starting at 24 feet in both brands. Sales favor travel trailers — 60% to 40%, Nash said.
In 2001, Northwood plans to develop several lightweight trailer models and a SURV toy-hauler line. New for 2001 in the Nash and Arctic Fox brands is a triple slideout option with flush floors in 29-foot and 33-foot models. "We waited to offer a flush floor slideout until we could get one that was fully insulated," Nash said.