Vendors: 2013, a Year for Capital Investments?
Editor’s Note: The following story is part of a series of stories about vendors who serve the RV park and campground sector. This and other stories appear in the February issue of Woodall's Campground Management.
Now that economic course of the U.S. is becoming clearer, RV parks and campground owners and operators have a better idea whether 2013 is the year they should be making those long-delayed capital improvements.
The vendors to this relatively small but resilient business sector say the answer to their question is a resounding yes.
Interest rates will remain low this year and all projections indicate travelers will continue to support the camping sector in healthy numbers, indicating interest in RV parks and campgrounds remains high.
One of the older firms serving RV parks and campgrounds, Hialeah Meter Co., looked to 2013 for continued service to one of its steadiest markets.
Family owned and operated since 1954, Hialeah Meter has set the industry standard for quality in new and remanufactured meters. RV parks, campgrounds and marinas have come to depend on the Hialeah, Fla.-based firm’s electric meters, transformers, meter mounting enclosures, water meters, and other accessory items.
“We will continue to give them that low-cost choice for remanufactured meters and showcase our Midwest posts and pedestals and our Millbank line,” said General Manager Lisa Senior.
Now more than ever, Senior, daughter-in-law of the company founder, is studying how the campground sector will embrace the future.
“We’re looking to see how to make it easier for them and for a way to modify the remanufactured meters to come into the 21st century. With all the devices out there, we hope to make them smarter,” she said.
Hialeah crossed a major meter inventory hurdle in 2012 and now guarantees same-day shipping on most orders and provides free shipping on orders of six or more pedestals, Senior noted. Large orders are shipped directly from the manufacturers.
The company sells its meters throughout the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Central America.
Helping campgrounds keep pace with the rapid technological demands is a daily challenge for CheckBox Systems, a Wi-Fi system provider based in Gray, Maine. Campgrounds wanting to increase the bandwidth of their Wi-Fi systems are looking to companies such as CheckBox Systems, for guidance, says Jim Ganley, managing partner.
Campgrounds with systems as new as three years old already need upgrades, notes Ganley, who likens the situation to “an ongoing arms race.”
“Each park is unique – no one-size approach fits all,” says Ganley. “One of the hard things to understand is that some of the newest devices have worse Wi-Fi reception than the older devices.”
He blames the batteries inside the devices for playing havoc with system development. For example, a newer iPad may have a range of 50 to 100 feet, while a five-year-old laptop may have a range of 500 feet.
Working around this fact of life is part of the company’s study of access points at each campground, Ganley said.
In the meantime, CheckBox will be updating some of its software and upgrading some of its hardware in 2013 to meet the ever-changing needs in the RV park and campground market, Ganley said.
Reporting year-over-year growth each year since its founding in 2003, CheckBox Systems is now doing business with 3,500 properties in 49 states, all the provinces of Canada, in Mexico and even in Europe.
After a brief winter shutdown, Ron Shannon, co-owner of Phelps Honey Wagon Inc., reopened the business in mid-January and fielded a surprising number of phone inquiries.
“If that’s any indication, business looks promising” for 2013, Shannon said.
The Phelps honey wagon remains an industry staple for many campgrounds, which need to pump waste from sanitary collection points. The Phelps wagon is mostly unchanged in recent years and continues its fine record of longevity, with units typically lasting 15 to 20 years before needing to be replaced, Shannon noted.
In business since 1970, the company manufactures its mobile waste collectors at its Dillsburg, Pa., factory and ships to RV parks and campgrounds nationwide and into Canada. Units may also be picked up, and in some cases the honey wagons can be delivered directly to the customer, Shannon said.
Shannon attends several state conferences in the East but skipped the ARVC convention in Las Vegas last year. He looks forward to attending the 2013 event in Knoxville, Tenn.