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RVIA Names Gorin to Camping Committee

August 27, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

David Gorin

David Gorin, a prominent player in the RV park and campground sector, has been named to serve on the ad hoc Destination Camping Committee of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

He joins Mike Atkinson, director of lodging for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), as the lone campground representatives on the 12-member committee.

The committee was formed earlier this year and has commissioned a study to identify the scope of destination camping. The committee is scheduled to hold its next meeting in October at a campground in the Nashville, Tenn., area to review the survey results.

Gorin is founder and president of Best Parks in America, a leading RV park and campground marketing group. He also serves as executive director of the Virginia Campground Association (VCA) and is the principal of David Gorin Associates.

From 1987 to 2001, Gorin was the president & CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

He and partner Aubrey King represented ARVC’s interests in Washington from 2002 until the end of 2010 when ARVC switched to a Washington-based law and lobbying firm.

Gorin and another partner in 2007 acquired an older Florida RV park, demolished it and redeveloped it into the showcase property. He was the managing partner from 2007 to 2010.

David Gorin & Associates has been a member of RVIA since 2002.

The other committee members are:

  • Dick Grymonprez, Athens Park Homes.
  • Curt Yoder, Kropf Industries Inc.
  • Tyler Steele, DNA Enterprises.
  • Tim Gage, Cavco Park Homes Inc.
  • Dan Saltzgiver, Reichert’s Camping Center.
  • Bill Garpow, Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association.
  • Ron Mullett, Forest River Inc.
  • Coley Brady, Heartland RV.
  • Sid Johnson, Jayco Inc.
  • Richard Coon, RVIA.

 

InSites: Gorin’s New WCM Column Debuts

August 22, 2012 by · Comments Off on InSites: Gorin’s New WCM Column Debuts 

David Gorin

It’s been more than 10 years that I’ve been writing Inside the Beltway for Woodall’s Campground Management and primarily reporting on what’s going on that impacts the park industry “inside the Beltway,” the insiders’ term for what goes on in Washington, D.C., within the Beltway highway encircling the nation’s capital. Being inside the Beltway implies “insider” knowledge of what goes on in our federal government and, at times, projects a cynical if not sinister view of what’s happening in the halls of government.

Now it’s time for a change as I spend less and less time inside the Beltway, and more and more time in the real world outside D.C. So with this column I bring my era of reporting on Washington and its impacts on the park industry to an end and it’s with a great deal of pleasure that I embark on a new direction – offering insights, observations, comment and commentary on the business side of the RV park, campground, outdoor hospitality, recreation and tourism industries in a column we’ve renamed “InSites.”

This change of direction coincides with the new ownership of Campground Management. Since its beginning, Campground Management was published monthly by Woodall Publications Corp. and the monthly tabloid was known as Woodall’s Campground Management. Woodall’s is to be congratulated on publishing this monthly and providing an information service to the park arena for many years as the Woodall’s brand changed hands from Illinois-based Woodall’s to California-based Affinity Group Inc. and was subsequently renamed Good Sam Enterprises LLC early last year.

It is fitting now, with the closing of the Woodall’s North American Campground Directory and merging last year of the Woodall’s brand into Good Sam that the ownership of the industry’s monthly newspaper transitions into the hands of another company – G & G Media Group LLC. G & G is a 16-month-old Elkhart, Ind., firm led by respected veteran RV industry journalist Sherman Goldenberg, who served as publisher of both RVBusiness and Campground Management for Affinity Group Inc. until early 2011, and his partner, Beverly Gardner, a well known veteran publishers’ rep who had represented WCM for more than 30 years as part of Beverly Gardner & Associates.

As Sherman and his colleagues assume ownership of Campground Management, the information available to park owners and operators through a publication exclusively serving the park industry’s interests is for the first time coming from an independent journalistic voice. Yes, while some advertisers will inevitably exert some measure of influence on publications in which they place their advertising, no longer will Campground Management’s editorial generally be controlled and influenced by the brands, subsidiaries and business interests of Good Sam Enterprises as a means of driving Woodall’s directory sales.

Aside from Sherman’s monthly publisher’s column in RV Business and an occasional editorial in Greg Gerber’s RV Daily Report, the content of the daily and monthly industry information channels – including WCM’s daily e-mail news briefs, the RV Daily Report, the RV Business daily headlines, the weekly industry E-news and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ ARVC Voice – are primarily filled with new releases issued by various sources or association information and promotions. There’s little if any analysis of what’s being reported, little comment on the information being shared, and little independent editorial voice to discuss industry issues, concerns and to raise questions that might need to be answered to help understand what is really going on in the park industry.

That said, I hope to help fill that void in coming months by providing analysis and comment and generally adding an independent voice and asking the questions that I believe many in the industry would like to see asked and answered.

As I launch this new column, it is important to embrace full disclosure as an important part of being an objective voice in this publication. In each and every issue, there will be at the end of each column, or in the column when appropriate, a statement of disclosure so that readers can be comfortable that the editorial content is offered fairly and openly. After 25+ years associated with the park industry, I have no axe to grind and I hope I have a reputation for openness and fairness.

As the months go by through the rest of 2012 and into 2013, I trust that this column will be of interest to the readers and that they will contact me via e-mail or phone or, when practical, personal conversations. Please feel free to communicate your thoughts, ideas, comments, and criticisms so that we can together have robust discussion of the many issues of interest to the folks in the park business.

Changes in the Wind for the Industry’s Key Trade Shows

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s annual National RV Trade Show, held for years in Louisville right after Thanksgiving, is under considerable pressure from Elkhart, Ind., area manufacturers who launched Elkhart’s Annual RV Open House Week four years ago throughout that northern Indiana city as a relatively efficient and low cost means of showing new model equipment each fall – Sept. 17-21 this year – to as many as 4,000 visiting dealer personnel.

As the Open House program emerged over the past four years and its dealer attendance has grown, RVIA is being challenged to deal with the status of its Louisville Show.

So, too, is the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association having to review the timing and location of its annual RVDA Con/Expo, held for years in Las Vegas in the first week of October.

Add to this the recent incorporation and welcome back of park trailer manufacturers into the RVIA membership family and it’s likely that the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) could lose a few park model exhibitors to the RVIA show now that the welcome mat is out for them in Louisville.

RVIA has been exploring a possible move to a new location and earlier timing, but that’s not likely at this point until at least 2015.

Discussions have been reported between RVIA and RVDA about a joint meeting and I would expect that it will inevitably occur in the next three to five years. It’s just sound common sense in today’s economic environment to take advantage of the efficiencies a joint meeting should offer.

Surprisingly, the reports of an RVIA-RVDA coordinated meeting have been silent on the possibility of adding the third industry leg to the meeting mix. There’s been virtually no mention that I’ve seen or heard about adding the park industry to this mix.

As RVIA and RVDA experience some turmoil and likely changes in their meeting schedules, ARVC is also experiencing similar issues. Having held the annual ARVC convention in direct competition with RVIA’s Louisville Show for some years, ARVC is committed to one more year (2012) in Las Vegas on the same dates as the Louisville Show, but is then planning a convention and show in Knoxville earlier in November 2013.

So is it out of the question to have an all-industry working group explore the feasibility and desirability of a pan-industry event bringing manufacturers, dealers and accommodators together in one location at the same time? Imagine an industry-wide annual celebration. Imagine a joint meeting of the boards of the associations. Imagine seminars with the top minds sharing ideas for continued industry growth and prosperity? Sure, putting this together would be complex and might have to entail some give and take on everybody’s part, but the excitement generated and the spirit and cooperation could propel each industry segment to greater expansion.

Watch Out Because the Feds May Be Coming Your Way!

Although it’s been reported in recent months, it’s worth repeating this industry alert: There are real efforts underway at the U.S. Forest Service to experiment with new campground models including private investment in campground upgrades and operations, seasonal campsites on public lands, RV and other recreational equipment storage plus longer term concessions or operating permits. Recent meetings between Forest Service and Department of Agriculture senior executives and private sector interests included representatives of the largest campground operating companies, large concession companies, ARVC and other related associations.

It is clearly time for the park industry to revisit the fair competition issues that have hovered over the park industry for a generation and prepare for what could be a significant change in public policy that may bring about a change in the competitive balance between public and private interests.

In the Spirit of Full Disclosure, Some Background on the Author

In the spirit of full disclosure, who is David Gorin and why is he writing for Campground Management?

Just to put all the cards on the table in this inaugural column, here are my disclosures.

From 1987 to 2001, I was the president & CEO of ARVC and during those years played a key role in an array of initiatives – from changing of the name to ARVC from the National Campground Owners Association to the growth of the CPO program, the expansion of Go Camping America to an online consumer directory and the founding and operation of the School of RV Park & Campground Management. I was instrumental in writing many of the association’s policies including its statements of Government Competition before leaving ARVC of my own accord at the end of 2001 to pursue other interests in and out of the park business.

Partner Aubrey King and I represented ARVC’s interests in Washington from 2002 until the end of 2010 when ARVC switched to a Washington-based law and lobbying firm.

Since 2002, I’ve operated David Gorin & Associates, a consulting firm that now exclusively serves investors, developers, owners and others with an interest in the RV park and campground business. I’ve worked with over 150 clients during this period. In 2004, I created Best Parks in America and now serve as president of that national brand and marketing association for highly rated RV parks. I own the intellectual property for Best Parks, an association of parks, and other brands that may be commercialized in the coming months and years.

As if that wasn’t enough, another partner and I in 2007 acquired an older Florida RV park, demolished it and re-developed it into the showcase property it is today. I was the managing partner from 2007 to 2010.

While Best Parks is a supplier member of ARVC, David Gorin & Associates was also a supplier member from 2001 until 2010 when the recession prompted a decline in consulting. David Gorin & Associates has been a member of RVIA since 2002 and since 2002 has provided management services to the Virginia Campground Association. The company name has since been changed to David Gorin Associates.

You can reach me at david@davidgorinassociates.com and at (703) 448.6863, and I’d welcome your calls. Let’s talk.

 

 

Gorin: Kudos to Bill Garpow for Industry Service

July 27, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

David Gorin

David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He is also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or (703) 448-6863.

On July 1, 2012, the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) ceased to exist, having officially closed its door and cuddled back in to the offices of the RV Industry Association (RVIA) from which it was evicted some number of years ago – an eviction about as unceremonious as was its welcome back into the “official” RV family.

For the park industry, the park trailer never ceased to be an RV. For RVIA, that was not the case.

Years ago (maybe 20 or so), RVIA was concerned that a relationship with RPTIA was going to taint the purity of the RV and somehow effect RVIA’s ability to protect and defend the RV as a camping unit. At about the same time, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and the rest of the industry was working hard to establish the cabin – bare bones but a cabin nonetheless – as a legitimate camping unit and to maintain the park trailer or park model as a legitimate RV camping unit.

I remember numerous hours spent encouraging legislators on the state and local level to define camping as something other than where you slept at night. It was a total outdoor environment and there were any number of accommodations options including tents, RVs of all kinds including park trailers, and cabins that were suitable for enjoying campgrounds. Industry friends at RVIA didn’t quite see it that way, either fearful of losing special privileges for RV ownership or of losing RV sites to other alternative camping options.

And then in a series of meetings in Elkhart, Ind., and I recall one in Toronto, emerged RPTIA with its new Executive Director Bill Garpow, a former executive director at the Florida RV Trade Association and a vice president at the RV Industry Association. From the campground industry perspective, the emergence of RPTIA and Bill Garpow started a new era in the park industry.

As Bill heads off into retirement and RPTIA folds its tent and merges into RVIA, its fully appropriate for the park industry to stand up and loudly applaud Bill’s terrific work in leading RPTIA and to thank Bill and his colleagues at RPTIA for their outstanding leadership and dedication to making the park trailer, park model, cottage, cabin or whatever you choose to call it a main line camping unit, popular with park owners, dealers and most importantly the thousands of guests who are introduced to RV parks and campgrounds through a park trailer rental as a great way to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. And of course, the popularity of these units among families, retirees and empty nesters has created a new market segment in the park industry. One only has to look at the increase in “destination” or seasonal camping to fully appreciate the role the park trailer plays in the 21st century park industry.

Bill, you deserve a great big thank you from the park industry. So here it is, at least from yours truly – thanks very, very much for all you’ve done and the very important contributions you’ve made working tirelessly on behalf of your manufacturer members, park owners across the country, state campground associations and executive directors who you supported without hesitation whenever your expertise was needed, and the guests who today have the park model as an affordable way to enjoy their outdoor recreation experiences.

Thanks, Bill, and best wishes for a wonderful future and a happy and healthy retirement. Stop by when you’re in the area. And anytime you and your wife would like to spend some time at a Best Parks in America resort, give me a call so we can recognize your contributions to the park industry.

(If I were a manufacturer, I’d name a unit after you – the Garpow, a park model with a long life expectancy, a passion for camping and exceptional design for guests to enjoy while on vacation or in retirement.)

One last comment on this change from RPTIA to RVIA. Welcome to Matt Wald, the new executive director for park trailers at RVIA. Matt’s been with RVIA for a number of years, and the industry can relax that the future of the unit is in good hands. We wish Matt great success in leading this important industry segment and filling the big shoes left by Bill.

State Parks Going Private?

After a number of years of budget anguish across the country as tax revenues fell during the recession, as many citizens began calling for tax reductions and cuts in government spending and as jurisdiction after jurisdiction has tried to set fees for park use to bolster revenues to maintain the parks, what appears to be the first state to actually try privatizing not only campgrounds and stores, but the entire operation of a park appears to be America’s pacesetting state – California. No surprise here. With a huge budget and ballooning deficits, a forceful and experienced governor and a population that is simply not happy to see its cherished parks closed, California is accepting responses to an RFP offering long term operating contracts in return for capital investment to upgrade and maintain the parks. And from what I hear and read, we’re talking fairly complete independence from public meddling for the winning company. The key will be customer satisfaction that will determine the company’s ability to keep and continue to operate the parks.

At the same time that California is looking at this progressive move toward improving the parks and providing new and expanded recreation opportunities, the U.S. Forest Service, spurred on by the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), is now considering a number of pilot projects that will involve concession companies and would potentially enable campers and RVers to enjoy seasonal camping in campgrounds in the U.S. forests, leave their RVs in storage at their favorite forest, and would enable the concession operators to add new amenities and recreational activities traditionally found only in commercial campgrounds.

Budgets, taxes, job and economic realities and a sympathetic administration in Washington are all now coming together in what may be a turning point for the park industry and what could spur great growth in the number of parks and campgrounds and potentially create a new competitive reality.

RV park and campground industry beware: although there could be a new sheriff in town, soon the doors of privatization and free market competition appear to be swinging in a different direction. If that happens, there will be a significant change in the competitive balance between public and private sector parks and campgrounds.

Disability Advocates Protest AH & LA’s D.C. Offices

A small but significant note. On June 19, about 200 people protested outside the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Washington, D.C., offices. They were angered at the association’s efforts to delay installing permanent pool lifts at hotels across the nation. AH & LA countered they are trying to avoid legal liability. Not an argument that’s likely to calm down the disability community that’s heard that argument frequently over the years. No one likes to be accused of creating liability for some one else – especially an individual whose disability might be a result of an illness over which they have no control, aging over which they have no control or due to military service.

Once again, my plea to the park industry: to the extent that being fully compliant with the ADA does not present an undue hardship or cause unreasonable financial hardship on the business, each and every RV park and campground should be as close to 100 percent accessible as soon as possible. There’s a large market of new guests out there waiting to find a welcome mat out so they and their families can enjoy the opportunities of outdoor recreation and experiences.

Good Sam Now a Membership Network?

Seems to me that the Good Sam Club is now in the membership park business. The new incentive program being offered to park owners who sell Good Sam memberships is moving that group very close – not exactly, but close – to the business model of making the parks membership parks a la Coast to Coast. Here’s how it works: buy your GS membership here, pay me and I keep your first year’s dues, and then go use your membership at other Good Sam Parks. At the end of the year, renew your membership directly with GS and I (the original seller) don’t receive any residual income from enrolling you in the first place.

Your campground is now in the business of selling (renting) RV sites, cabins and memberships. Why stop at just Good Sam memberships? How about selling AAA memberships? Maybe a Coast to Coast membership? How about a new business model marketing various memberships of value to RVers and campers on your park website? Maybe in a small office on the campground? Maybe at fairs and festivals. Or in your booth at an RV show?

My only caution on this model is to never forget why you are in business and who your customers are. It’s easy to get distracted and easy for front desk personnel to forget the primary purpose of their contact with the guest.

In my years in the business, I don’t think I can recall a really successful business model where park personnel were selling or marketing products or services for a third party.

There’s good revenue to be made is selling memberships. Just be sure where that fits into your parks’ business plan.

Correction & Apology

Last month I wrote a brief comment on a consultant who was wearing a shirt with the Signature Resorts logo and criticized the individual for suggesting that investing $20 million in a Class A only RV resort in Florida was a sound business model. I based some of my comment on my assumption that the individual was associated with Signature Resort in Naples, Fla.

I’ve since learned that the logo and name Signature Resorts is the company name of the individual wearing the shirt and he’s not related to the Naples resort.

While I still believe the Cape Coral Class A only park being promoted is a serious mistake, to be clear it is not at all associated with the Signature Resorts in Naples and Michigan nor is the consultant in question.

One Last Comment on One Unusual Story

An Orlando-based property management company with a focus on managing self-storage facilities recently added an RV resort management contract to its portfolio in Central Florida. The company will be managing the Floridian RV Resort in St. Cloud, Fla. Floridian RV Resort is a 650-space RV and 130-space mobile home park community that was established in the 1970s, and has been attracting a customer mix of winter snowbirds and semi-permanent residents ever since.

The principal and head of business development for the management company is quoted: “We have been successfully managing self-storage properties for over 15 years. Expanding our property management services to RV Parks was a natural progression. Both commercial property types require focused property management with attention to minimizing expenses and providing excellent customer service at an affordable price point. Our strengths come in to play in setting high occupancy goals and in providing extensive training to our managers to enable them to attract and retain customers on an ongoing basis. The transparency of our methods is what is most appreciated by our clients the property owners.”

Does that strike anyone other than me as strange? Managing a self-storage facility is the same as managing an RV park? Customer service at a self-storage facility is the same as customer service at a hospitality business?

A word to ARVC: consider offering the Outdoor Hospitality Education Program to the self-storage business. This could be a whole new market – imagine the National School of RV Park, Campground & Self-Storage Management.

 

 

 

Gorin: Let’s Rethink That Opposition to Pool Lift Regs

June 26, 2012 by · Comments Off on Gorin: Let’s Rethink That Opposition to Pool Lift Regs 

David Gorin

David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, wrote the following column for the July issue of Woodall’s Campground Management. He is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He is also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or (703) 448-6863.

What are they thinking?

While not generally the subject of this column, I can’t resist these comments.

A recent report in the RV Daily Report and in the Woodall’s Campground Management daily described a proposed 71-acre $20 million high-end Class A RV resort to be developed around a lake in Cape Coral, Fla. In the full article linked to these reports, there’s a video of a gentleman wearing a Signature Resort shirt talking about how Class A motorhomes start at $150,000 and go up to $2 million or more – the target audience for this proposed resort.

The irony of the Signature shirt on the video is that the two existing Signature Resorts, one in Naples, Fla., and one in Michigan, were built by Monaco Coach Co. in the 2007 to 2008 period. Monaco had more than $20 million in the Naples resort and probably close to a similar amount in Michigan. Monaco and both resorts wound up in bankruptcy. Monaco was sold off to Navistar and both RV resorts were sold at auction for, I believe, about $8 million each. Today, both are struggling as Class A motorcoach resorts. And you don’t have to look too far around Florida to find other Class A-only resorts in similar situations. Check out Florida Grande in Webster and Golden Palms in Ft. Myers, for example.

I surely don’t have all the answers to all the questions associated with RV resort development, but I just can’t figure out what these developers in Cape Coral are thinking and how they’ve assessed the need and the market. I wish all involved good luck in this project.

Recreation Trails Winning, Scenic Byways in Trouble

As efforts in Congress to pass a surface transportation bill continues, here’s an update on where a couple of important issues related to outdoor recreation and travel stand:

• Recreational trails: The House committee and the Senate committee are in rough agreement on setting aside $85 million per year for the Recreational Trails Program. The office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the lead advocate for the program in the Senate, said the senator “has secured the continuation of the Recreational Trails Program as part of a larger Surface Transportation bill.”

• Scenic byways: The House committee bill would eliminate the program. The House committee would also eliminate funding for the America’s Byways Resource Center. That may not matter because the Obama administration is already closing the center down. The Senate bill would allow the scenic byways program to compete for money from either a Transportation Mobility Program or from transportation enhancements.

The park industry has strongly supported the Scenic Byways program and in fact, ARVC was at the table and played a key role in the creation of the program in the late 1980s.

• Enhancements: The House committee bill would remove the existing $900 million per year set-aside for transportation enhancements, but would allow the program to compete with other programs for money from state highway transportation offices. The Senate bill would maintain guaranteed spending for the program at or about $900 million for fiscal 2013 and 2014.

In the past, transportation enhancement funding provided funds to states and the feds for welcome center enhancements, rest areas, Rails to Trails programs and other ancillary transportation programs.

Military To Get Fed Land Passes

The Obama administration on May 19 announced it has established an annual pass for all active duty military personnel to all federal recreation sites. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass will provide free entrance to National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and Army Corps sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.

Pool Lifts, ADA and People with Disabilities

The hospitality industries have been engaged in attempting to introduce some rationality in the ADA requirements for pool lifts in pools that serve the public. It appears that as of this writing, the enforcement on the lift requirement has been delayed until at least Jan. 31, 2013, and that the regulations appear likely to be modified to allow both a grandfathering of portable pool lifts purchased prior to the original March 2012 compliance deadline as well as allowing the use of portable lifts under certain circumstances.

While this battle has been front and center in the park industry, there’s another effort to end discrimination and second class treatment of the disabled around the world.

The U.S. International Council on Disabilities has been leading the effort to get the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified in America.

The treaty upholds the American values of nondiscrimination, as well as equal access for all people with disabilities in every area of life. The Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will help to protect Americans with Disabilities who travel and work in other nations from discrimination, including disabled American veterans, while assisting to ensure that every American enjoys the same rights outside of America as they do while they are at home.

Ratification of the Convention treaty is supported by more than 150 national and local organizations including Veterans Service Organizations who have joined the disability community in supporting the treaty. These Veterans Service Organizations include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Wounded Warrior Project and Disabled American Veterans.

This whole ADA and disability discussion has brought to mind several things that park operators might want to keep in mind in the future.

• In 2010, 14,708,000 Americans (or about one in 12, roughly 8%), civilian men and women, aged 21-64 had a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• According to the RV Industry Association, about 8% of U.S. households have an RV.

Every new RV park, every new amenity added to an existing park, every amenity or facility rehabilitated or renovated should be done in a way that will enable the park to fully serve the 8% of those with disabilities. The market is about as large as the number of RVs on the road.

Significant tax credits and deductions are available to help businesses of all sizes offset any costs of ADA compliance.

Happy July 4th To All

It’s a small sample, but I’ve talked to about a dozen RV parks since Monday, Memorial Day. Today’s Wednesday, May 30, and everyone I’ve talked to was extremely positive about Memorial Day business. Even parks in Florida! With that in mind, here’s to a successful summer season to all.

 

 

Gorin: Taxes and Small Business: Is There Hope for the Future?

April 19, 2012 by · Comments Off on Gorin: Taxes and Small Business: Is There Hope for the Future? 

David Gorin

Editor’s Note: David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He is also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or (703) 448-6863.

With the presidential election just 8 months away, both sides are working hard to lay out their vision should their party win. Nowhere was this more obvious then in late March in the House Ways and Means Committee (the tax writing committee in the House of Representatives) and in the House in general.

On March 27, the Ways & Means Committee favorably reported out The Small Business Tax Cut Act (HR 9), which has been championed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Can you imagine that! The legislation will allow businesses with less than 500 employees to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their active business income and applies to business owners who pay their taxes at the individual or corporate level. The full House is expected to consider the legislation when the House returns after the April in-district work period. Do I hear pandering? Setting the table for next year? Who among us small business people wouldn’t vote for that Act? Or for those supporting it!

And on March 28, the House Republican Budget Resolution passed. Included in this budget proposal are new measures related to comprehensive tax reform that represent the House Republicans’ commitment to provide a stronger climate for economic growth and job creation. The tax section builds off of last year’s FY2012 House-passed Republican budget that included comprehensive tax reform with a top rate of 25 percent for individual and corporate taxes. The House-passed Republican budget takes three additional steps toward job creating, comprehensive tax reform that:

  • Consolidates the current six individual income tax brackets into just two brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent.
  • Repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax, which currently creates higher taxes for some 31 million middle-class families.
  • Reduces the corporate rate to 25 percent and encourages investment and hiring here at home.

Got to keep in mind that at the moment, the House is Republican-controlled but the Senate is Democrat-controlled. Everything the House does must at some point move to the Senate. These strong pro-business tax provisions being touted by the House are going nowhere in 2012, but it’s certain they will be back on the table in 2013, especially if the White House and/or the Senate comes under Republican control.

There’s certainly a lot at stake for small business during the next 8 months.

New Thinking at the Forest Service

At a recent meeting of the America Recreation Coalition (ARC) with which ARVC has a longstanding relationship, Harris Sherman, Under Secretary of the Department of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment, with responsibility for the National Forest System (as opposed to the National Parks Service), outlined some of the salient facts about the forests. He was the primary speaker and discussed some of the facts and challenges facing the forests, and described at least one possible solution.

On the factual side, and to provide some perspective, Sherman explained that the 193 million acres managed by the Forest Service, which represent approximately 8 percent of the land in the United States, provide significant sequestration of carbon and are the source of drinking water for 66 million people. He also noted that the national forests host 200 million recreation visits annually and are home to 550 threatened and endangered species, in addition to thousands more species.

On the challenges side of the ledger, Sherman, noted that the challenges facing the National Forest System are equally significant. He noted that 70 million to 80 million acres are in need of what he described as serious restoration, including a thinning out of very dense growth. He described the increasing threat to the forests from fire, noting that the 3 million to 4 million acres that used to burn each year have now increased to 5 million to 10 million acres annually, with even more acreage at risk in the near future. He also mentioned the challenge represented by “bizarre climate changes” and cited as an example the previous year, when the northern tier of the country experienced the wettest year on record while a number of southern states endured record droughts.

Bottom line: The Under Secretary stated that “We need to redouble our efforts to take care of the forests” while, at the same time, struggling with budgets that have decreased 5 percent to 8 percent in recent years.

How to accomplish the daunting challenge?

Among his solutions is the need to forge partnerships among those who can help the agency do its work while helping the partners with their work. He noted that he was delivering this partnership message not only to the recreation community, but also to electric and water utilities as well as timber, grazing, and oil and gas interests.

The Forest Service has to find new ways to do business and be more effective, efficient and focused.

The Under Secretary discussed partnerships and found a receptive audience. In discussing the new Forest Service Planning Rule, President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoor initiative, and the new Travel & Tourism National Strategy, Sherman clearly is optimistic that real change can come about that will be helpful to the private recreation sector. The possibility of new forms of partnerships in the coming years can be a boom or bust for the park industry. Opening up new RV park and campground opportunities on public land developed and operated by the private sector, bringing more and more Americans outdoors and bringing increased international visitation to the U.S. all hold great promise for the park industry.

The American Recreation Coalition is following up on Sherman’s remarks and is convening in April a group of interested private sector recreation people to brainstorm how the private sector and the U.S. Forest Service can work cooperatively for the good of both sectors and the American people.

The Park Industry and Pool Lifts

The issue on the minds of park owners around the country for the last two months or so? No doubt it is the requirement that public accommodations need to add pool lifts to enable disabled individuals to access park swimming pools.

The need to comply with this Americans With Disabilities Act provision by March 15th and the need to install a fixed lift as opposed to making a portable lift available, became a crises in early March for many parks owners. Uncertainty about the need to comply, the shortage lifts for immediate shipment, and resentment that the government was mandating the lifts all contributed to the pressure and tension among park owners. ARVC, working with the American Hotel & Lodging Association and others seeking an implementation delay or a modification to the requirements were successful in having the Justice Department delay implementation for 60 days during which time they would entertain comments from all sources about a lengthier compliance period and possibly other changes to the requirements.

There seem to be two issues at play here.

First, many park owners have become increasingly angry and vocal about government interference in their business by mandating that they spend their money to comply with a government regulation that forces them to prepare to serve a market park owners claim is very small or maybe non-existent.

It’s impossible to argue with this point of view. Government regulates way too many aspects of business life and makes way too many demands on the business owner to spend their money to meet government expectations.

From taxes to licensing fees, from compliance with the hazardous materials standards to environmental regulations of all kinds, the government is almost a partner in small businesses.

From this point of view, the anger is, I think, justified.

The other side of this story has two considerations that deserve comment.

There are 36 million who are classified as disabled (12 percent of the population) and of these, 5.5 million are disabled veterans and half of those vets are in their working years, i.e., ages 18 to 64. If you think the definition of “disabled” is way too large and covers things that are not disabilities, I encourage you to read the Americans with Disabilities Act for a definition of the term “disabled.”

This is a substantial market. It’s actually larger than the RVer market! Why don’t parks see more disabled visitors? I think the answer is simple: they are not accommodating and parks are not easy for many disabled people to get around and feel comfortable. Provide appropriate accessible accommodations, advertise and market for the business, and my guess is that over a few years, this market segment can become considerably more important to many parks.

Also on this side of the coin is the simple (or maybe not so simple) matter that in the U.S., businesses that serve the public are not permitted to discriminate about whom they serve. Public accommodations, public businesses cannot restrict or limit the segments of the population they serve. This principle is well established in this country. Big or small, business in America is not free to pick and choose its customers. Americans come in many shapes, sizes, ages, ethnic heritages, races, religions, etc., and all must be welcome by businesses that purport to serve the public.

I hope that the Justice Department and maybe Congress will provide a reasonable opportunity for parks to comply with the pool lift requirement, but most of all, I hope they will publish guidelines covering the concepts of “readily achievable” and “undue hardship.” These concepts are misunderstood and business people need a bit more clear guidance on these terms.

Calm heads will hopefully prevail and no one will be forced out of business, no one will have to close their pool, no one will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to become accessible, but businesses will become open and available to the millions of disabled Americans who now are shut out of enjoying many of the things that able-bodied Americans so easily take for granted.

 

 

Gorin: April to June; Busy Time for Travel and Tourism

March 23, 2012 by · Comments Off on Gorin: April to June; Busy Time for Travel and Tourism 

David Gorin

David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He is also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. He is a regular columnist for Woodall’s Campground Management. His April column appears here. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or (703) 448-6863.

Let’s start with April. Between the time this column is being written and the end of April, we can expect major action in Congress on a new surface transportation bill. As an industry based on road travel, the park and recreation industries have a great stake in the outcomes of this legislation. Everything from roads, bridges and tunnels construction and repair projects to travel information systems to reduce congestion, to scenic byways, recreation trails and mass transit for urban areas are usually contained in this legislation.

Two bills are at the heart of this issue. In the House of Representatives, H.R. 7, the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act and in the U.S. Senate, S. 1813, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) are the two vehicles that will most likely eventually form the new surface transportation program for a number of years.

The existing federal surface transportation law, know as SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) funded and authorized federal transportation spending. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in August 2005, and expired at the end of September 2009. Unable to come to an agreement on spending levels and bogged down in controversy over earmarks (this legislation is a major place for members of Congress to bring “home the bacon” in the form of federal funding for their local districts and states), Congress has renewed its funding several times since its expiration date. The current extension runs out on March 31, 2012 so either we are looking at another extension or Congressional action by the time this column appears in print. Typically the legislation is a six-year program but there is considerable discussion about a shorter time frame for the next transportation bill.

On the Senate side, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) makes several major changes to SAFETEA-LU. Among the changes of special concern to recreation interests are MAP-21’s lumping of the Recreational Trails Program, the Safe Routes to School Program, Transportation Enhancements (including Welcome Center funding) into a single category of “allowed” uses of state apportionments. The Recreational Trails Coalition, a key promoter of inclusion of trails money, is concerned that this approach will provide little or no funding for recreational trails. Trails are a key component of outdoor recreation, being used for numerous activities from hiking to snowmobiling.

Of even greater importance to the RV park and campground industry, and to the RV industry, is the continuation of the Scenic Byways Program. The Senate MAP-21 bill cuts earmarked funding for specific byways, but continues support for 150 existing National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads and would allow additional designations.

On the House side, H.R. 7, The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, would change transportation programs in several ways, including reducing federal surface transportation programs from 100+ to about 30 through consolidation and elimination – including repeal of the National Scenic Byways Program. The bill would also allow states more control over their highway funding by granting them more project approval authority and eliminating requirements for funding non-highway activities; and the bill would also streamline projects by cutting red tape and setting deadlines for federal assessment of projects.

Since the bill was made public in mid-February, an effort led by the American Recreation Coalition and scenic byways supporters have had some success. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill and as a result of the president’s concern, House Speaker John Boehner has postponed any House action of the bill.

ARVC: National Industry Issues Conference

Moving on to May, ARVC has announced that it will be re-introducing the National Issues Conference on May 8-10 in Washington, D.C. This important event brings together park industry leaders and their members of Congress for discussions and lobbying on issues of importance to the park industry.

One of the key issues expected to be on the agenda for meetings will be the issue of Congressional action to secure a reversal of a recent Justice Department ruling that portable pool lifts were not acceptable in meeting ADA requirements.

For the park industry to have an impact in Washington, it’s important that all states be represented at this conference. As I like to say, the world is run by the people who show up. If there are national objectives that would make the park industry more successful, then the park industry has to show up and pursue its objectives. If the industry doesn’t stand up for itself, who will?

National Travel & Tourism Week

In another important May event, the annual National Travel & Tourism Week is set for May 5 – May 13. This nationwide event focuses businesses, local communities, counties and states on the key economic role played by the travel and tourism industries.

Led by local convention and visitor bureaus, travel and tourism agencies and hundreds of businesses, the week provides numerous events locally to call attention to the industries.

RV parks and campgrounds play an important economic role in hundreds of communities. It’s always a great thing when parks are involved in this weeklong program. It’s a great time to remind employees and guests of the vital role travel and tourism plays in the life of many communities, to thank the communities for their support and to encourage expansion of that support.

National Tourism Week began when the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution in 1983 designating the week to be celebrated in May. At the time, in a White House ceremony, President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation urging citizens to observe the week with “the appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Since its establishment, the U.S. travel community has collectively marked the event in a number of creative ways, from staging local rallies and conducting media outreach to securing proclamations and resolutions from local legislative bodies.

And then June – Great Outdoors Month 2012

A key recreation industry event each year is Great Outdoors Month, featuring a month long series of events focusing public attention on the benefits and excitement of the outdoors. One of the centerpieces of the month-long celebration is Get Outdoors Day on June 9.

Great Outdoors Month 2012 is expected to be proclaimed by President Obama and all 50 governors. Great Outdoors Month partners – 50-plus public and private sector organizations – will work to get the nation’s top elected officials personally involved in outdoor activities this June.

As in past years, there will be thousands of events across the nation during Great Outdoors Month – from National Trails Day to National Marina Day to the Great American Backyard Camp-Out. GOM organizers anticipate a record number of National Great Outdoors Day sites.

June 9 is a great opportunity for RV parks and campgrounds across America to create special community events in the parks – fishing contests, hikes, open houses, nature programs, bike rides, for example – and encourage your neighbors to get outdoors.

Be sure to check in with your state campground association to see what activities may be planned for Great Outdoors Month in your state and area.

Let’s note here that the Great American Backyard Camp Out was an idea developed at the 2009 spring meeting of the Campground Association Management Professionals (CAMP) organization. The idea has taken root and is spreading across America.

National Tourism Week, Great Outdoors Month and Get Outdoors Day are terrific marketing opportunities for parks to develop new events during a somewhat off time period. These events can help raise the visibility of a park in their community. Park owners can promote these special periods within their community – to civic groups, church groups, and others. Partnering with scouts, schools, youth clubs and other similar groups to share these special times can be an important yet mostly overlooked opportunity.

 

 

Gorin: Tourism Gets Big Boost from D.C.

February 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on Gorin: Tourism Gets Big Boost from D.C. 

David Gorin

David Gorin is a columnist for Woodall’s Campground Management. He is former CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He is also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or (703) 448-6863.

After many years, success!

As long as I can remember (at least going back to 1987), the travel and tourism industry has valiantly and unsuccessfully sought support and attention from the U.S. government in promoting international travel and tourism to the US.

The campaigns to achieve some real recognition of the economic role that travel and tourism can play in creating jobs, generating taxes and local business revenue are legion.

For a number of years, the Tourism Works for America campaign was the highlight of National Tourism Week. The annual report distributed by the TWA folks (a program of the then Travel Industry Association) was full of what should have been persuasive data on the return on an investment in promoting and expanding travel and tourism. Didn’t happen. If I recall, the chairman of the House Commerce Committee at the time was Charles Dingell, a powerful Democratic congressman from the Detroit area who didn’t see any benefit to Detroit if international travel and tourism grew and repeatedly blocked any efforts to enact meaningful legislation that would have stepped up the government role in travel promotion.

At best in those years, Congress provided some funding for the U.S. Travel & Tourism Administration, a small research unit within the Department of Commerce, once headed up by an undersecretary or assistant secretary of the department. Over the years, that office was downgraded and moved primarily into the part of Commerce that worked on increasing U.S. exports. Travel into the U.S. from overseas is an export (resulting in revenue to the U.S.). In recent years, it’s been a behind-the-scenes small research office.

Conference Not Very Successful

In the Clinton years, there was a White House Conference on Travel & Tourism, and industry optimism grew that maybe something would happen. The conference called for the establishment of a U.S. Travel Corporation, a public/private group that would head up international travel promotion. The Corporation board was formed, private sector support lined up and then Congress refused to provide any funding for the public sector part of the partnership. The results of the White House conference? Not anything that anyone remembers today.

Over the years since, the U.S. role as an international tourism destination slowly shrunk. The number of visitors coming to the U.S. was on a downward slope. The U.S. was the only developed nation without a national tourism promotion program aimed at bringing visitors to a country. Over time, the U.S. slipped I believe, to fourth or fifth on the list where people were visiting – both business and vacation travel.

At one point, Congress created a Rural Tourism Promotion Board to try to spur travel to the far reaches of the country – either domestic or international travel. After several attempts to develop funding, this initiative went the way of many others before it.

Anyway, this is all a lead up to what the travel, tourism and recreation industries should now be thrilled about: a new and hopefully serious recognition by a U.S. president of the role that travel, tourism and now recreation, can play in the economic and social life of the U.S. Jobs, jobs, jobs, taxes, taxes, taxes, revenue, revenue, revenue.

Unless, of course, politics gets in the way. Initially, growing international and domestic travel, tourism and recreation will require funding, maybe from the public sector, maybe from the private sector and most likely from both. We must hope that the powers that be in Washington, recognize, acknowledge and act on what has been illustrated over and over again. Travel, tourism and recreation promotional and marketing investments can pay huge dividends for the country. In the past, that fact was not persuasive but maybe now will be different.

Obama Launches New Initiatives

In mid-January, President Obama signed an Executive Order and announced new initiatives to significantly increase travel and tourism in the United States. Pointing out that the U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment, producing 2.7 percent of America’s gross domestic product and 7.5 million jobs in 2010. And international travel to the U.S. supported 1.2 million of those jobs.

The president’s initiative should provide strong support to the new U.S. Travel Corporation as it begins the effort to expand the number of visitors annually to the U.S.

The travel and tourism industry projects that more than 1 million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market. The resident’s announcement included important steps to bolster job creation by better promoting the United States as a tourism destination.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international travel resulted in $134 billion in U.S. exports in 2010 and is the nation’s largest service export industry, with 7 percent of total exports and 24 percent of service exports. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that every additional 65 international visitors to the United States can generate enough exports to support an additional travel and tourism-related job.

According to the travel industry and Bureau of Economic Analysis, international travel is particularly important as overseas or “long-haul” travelers spend on average $4,000 on each visit.

The president’s program calls for a national strategy to make the U.S. the world’s top travel and tourism destination. The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes – such as China, Brazil, and India – is projected to grow by 135 percent, 274 percent, and 50 percent, respectively, by 2016 when compared to 2010.

Nationals from these three countries contributed approximately $15 billion and thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010. In addition, Chinese and Brazilian tourists currently spend more than $6,000 and $5,000, respectively, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce.

Three Reasons Why This is Important

Why is this all-important to the RV park and campground industry? Simple.

Reason one: Repeat visitors are looking for unique vacation options, like RV rentals, cabins, yurts and similar accommodations. Anyone can stay in a hotel.

Reason two: First time and repeat visitors want to see the “real” America, not just the lights of Las Vegas, the towering buildings of New York, the Orlando magic kingdom and the glamour of Hollywood and Los Angles. And the park industry can provide these visitors with the experience they seek – meeting real Americans in unique American settings.

Reason three: We’ve known for years the value of travel and tourism to create jobs and generate revenue and taxes, all of which this country could use in large amounts. According to Department of Labor statistics, for each 65 international visitors to the U.S., one job is created. Wouldn’t we all benefit from an industry that has a positive balance of trade (bringing more to the U.S. than Americans spend overseas), creates jobs and generates taxes? The bread and butter of the park industry business is the American middle class. A healthy employed middle class means growth and revenue for the park industry.

After all the years of hoping for recognition of the importance of travel and tourism, could this be the initiative that permanently establishes these industries as important contributors to the U.S. economy, on the same level as the automobile, energy and consumer product sectors?

Let’s see where it goes.

Gorin: Six Timely New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

January 19, 2012 by · Comments Off on Gorin: Six Timely New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 

David Gorin

David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is a columnist for Woodall’s Campground Management. He is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He is also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or (703) 448-6863.

Typically, this column deals with government actions and activities that might impact on the RV park, campground, recreation, travel and tourism. As we kick off 2012 and head into a presidential election year, there will be plenty of time to write about these issues, and I thought I’d start off the new year with some other thoughts and information that I thought you’d find interesting.

New Industry Research Now Available

You may have missed the news releases in the online industry daily news reports, but thanks to the folks at the Outdoor Industry Association’s Outdoor Foundation, the Coleman Co. and KOA the new Special Report on Camping 2011 is now available. The report contains some excellent insights and information about camping – tent, backpacking, car and RV camping. I’d consider this report a “must read” for those who operate family camping facilities around the country.

Some highlights:

• Including tenting, backpacking, car, RV and cabin camping, almost 40 million Americans went camping in 2010 for a total of 514.8 million outings. This is down slightly from 2009’s 44 million campers and 580.7 million outings.

• During the winter, spring and fall, about 71% of campers select a public campground; during the summer, 68% go public. Based on the number of total campers, about 12 million campers visited private campgrounds during 2011.

• During the summer season, 50% of camping trips are 1 – 2 nights. At other times of the year, more than 60% of camping trips are 1 – 2 nights. During the summer season, 50% of camping trips are 3 or more days with 31% of trips being 3 – 4 nights, 11% are 5 – 6 nights and 7% are trips 7 or more nights.

• What campers do while camping?  92% go hiking, 43% go fishing, approximately 33% go either road or mountain biking, 23% go boating, 34% go canoeing and 55% jog or run.

The report is packed with statistics about camping and breaks down the camping population into several groups – parents, partiers, soft, rugged and extreme. Very useful information. The report is available at www.outdoorindustry.org.

Does your park have a water bottle policy?

In an effort to reduce plastic bottle trash and recycling in the national parks, the National Park Service had established a ban on plastic bottles in the national parks and recently reversed that decision.

Under attack from environmentalists, for reversing a ban on water bottles in Grand Canyon National Park, the Park Service Dec. 14 issued a new policy that applies to all national parks and it allows superintendents to ban water bottles if they first obtain approval of the applicable regional director.

NPS Director Jon Jarvis: “In light of recent interest in one element of the (Green Parks Plan), we are issuing the attached specific policy on the reduction/recycling of disposable plastic water bottles.” The environmental group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has been keeping the pressure on the park Service. It recently released internal Park Service communications and alleged a Grand Canyon decision to ban plastic water bottles was reversed at the bidding of the Coca-Cola Company. The memos detail meetings among Jarvis, NPS field officials, the Coca-Cola Company and the National Park Foundation. PEER says those memos confirm that Jarvis made the call to ban water bottles at Grand Canyon at the behest of the bottlers.

Is your park selling water and other drinks in plastic bottles? Are you insisting and making it easy for your guests to recycle the bottles?

Resolutions for 2012

It’s fashionable to start off the new year with our New Year’s Resolutions that are intended to improve our lives, put us on a path to better health and happiness, and perhaps avoid some self-defeating behaviors that may be counter to our best interests.

In thinking about my business interests (consulting, Best Parks in America, RV park ownership and investing), I’ve written down a few resolutions that I hope will improve my business life, and as a result put me on a path to better health and happiness.

Here are my few New Year’s resolutions:

1. Never forget who butters my bread – my customer, my clients, my guests, my members. Always remaining customer-focused is the only true way to build a successful business.

2. Our people are our most important asset. This is something that many business owners pay lip service. Mostly, their actions say otherwise. Resolve to do everything in my power to assure that the people who work with me are empowered, are considered in every business decision and are truly made to feel how important they are. (During the recent recession, as hotel business turned down, the Marriott hotel chain was faced with declining revenue and occupancy and the possibility of laying off workers – usually those who could least afford to be unemployed. Instead of layoffs, Marriott resolved to replace all retiring or others voluntarily leaving Marriott, by re-training and cross training its workforce to enable them to perform many new tasks that were performed by the workers who were leaving. So you had maids being trained to serve banquets, servers trained to work in the kitchen and so on. There were almost no layoffs at Marriott as they adjusted their business to assure that they retained their most important assets so that as business improved, they were ready with a loyal and trusted work force).

3. Appearance and perception count. How our customers, guests, clients or whatever see us is critical. Everything from the aesthetics of the RV park to the way the store, restrooms, clubhouse, laundry, reports, newsletters and personnel contribute to the appearance and perceptions of appearance taken away by our customers. Keeping up appearance can never be underestimated.

4. Like it or not, technology ain’t going away. Make it your friend and it can save you large amounts of money and time and it can also help you increase your revenues. Embrace technology, take courses if necessary to learn and keep up, hire expertise if necessary but never say no to a technical solution to your everyday life.

5. I need to be sure to recognize and/or acknowledge what I don’t know and count on experts to work with me to deal with what I don’t know – and to help me understand what I don’t know.

6. Finally, try to never forget that the world is run by the people who show up. Sitting in the shadows and hoping someone else will watch out for you is short-sighted and flat out wrong. If you don’t watch out for your interests, why would anyone else.

Thanks for listening. I’ll let you know next January how this all worked out in my world. In the meantime, best wishes to all for a great 2012, one filled with happiness, health, peace and prosperity.

Gorin: U.S. in ‘Campaign Mode’ as Presidential Race Well Underway

November 21, 2011 by · Comments Off on Gorin: U.S. in ‘Campaign Mode’ as Presidential Race Well Underway 

David Gorin

Editor’s Note: David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He’s also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or at (703) 448-6863.

As I write this column on Nov. 7, the presidential election of 2012 is just 365 days away. From all indications, even though the Republican nominee won’t be selected officially until August, it certainly seems on some days that the country is already in campaign mode. The next year will be filled with debates, photo opportunities, candidates (including President Obama) crisscrossing the country, charges and counter charges, flips and flops and likely little else in the way of substantial legislation or Congressional action. Every vote in the House or the Senate will provide fodder for the campaign. Expect only that legislation that can’t be avoided because of government funding requirements or statutory requirements.

From my perspective here in the D.C. area (although I am technically outside the Beltway), it appears that the presidential race is going to be close and go down to the wire, unless something dramatic occurs like the jobless rate drops to 7.5% or 8%, consumer confidence jumps significantly resulting in a jump in retail holiday sales that exceed expectations of 2%-3% gains, Iran and Israel go at it, the Republicans nominate a very far right or fringe candidate.

If any of these things happen, it will certainly benefit the incumbent president. If the Republicans nominate a moderate acceptable to the great-undecided population that went for Obama in 2008, the race becomes Obama running basically against himself and the election becomes a referendum on Obama’s presidency. If they nominate a fringe or too radical or polarizing candidate, the race becomes between Obama and that candidate, possibly forcing the middle ground Americans to stay with Obama. Should be interesting.

It is of interest to note two things from the Nov. 7, 2011, Election Day. First, Ohio voters supported the 350,000 union teachers, fireman, police and other civil service workers in their battle in a referendum to protect their union rights. And second, voters in Mississippi voted against a referendum that effectively would have outlawed abortions under any circumstances and considered those who perform abortions as guilty of murder. These two votes in very diverse states may signal that voters are not interested in extremes in any direction.

The Committee of 12

The super committee of congressmen and senators selected to come up with a deficit reduction plan are running short on time to present their plan. The early word of a mix of tax cuts, tax reform and elimination of certain tax credits (read by many as a tax hike) was not well received and the committee is still working to fashion some sort of program that can receive unanimous endorsement of the committee members. Without unanimity, the committee can’t expect any action on its report.

The small business community is watching carefully to make sure that solutions for deficit reduction are fair and balanced – not often the case when taxes are on the table.

The small business stance on deficit reduction is that to assure that the nation lives within its means, in discussions and debates on addressing the federal budget deficit, nothing should be eliminated or protected from the discussion and debate, including benefits, programs, project cuts and revenue increases.

The small business world always approaches “tax reform” or “corporate tax reform” with skepticism. Over the years, such discussions have usually centered on lowering rates for C corporations while eliminating deductions and credits (i.e. raising taxes). The large corporate world likes that approach but for smaller business, often organized as sole proprietorships, partners, LLCs or S corporations, the benefits of reducing the corporate rate does nothing for these businesses who generally would pay more because of the reduction in deductions or credits that usually are found on the tax returns of the small business owners.

One important area that has been reported on the table is the elimination of the immediate write-off for purchases of capital equipment (such as outdoor power equipment, cabins and park models, new computers, etc.). The direct expensing allowances go back to the early 1980s and have long been championed by small business advocates such as the Small Business Legislative Council. The capital expense write-offs are not only important to the small business purchasing the equipment but to the many small businesses that make and sell that equipment. The benefit is on both sides of the equation – benefitting both the buyer and the seller and, in fact, the general economy.

Another concern that is likely to once again rear its head is the re-defining of the independent contractor position. By further reducing the window for legitimate independent contractor status, the proponents see a closing of a loophole in employment taxes. The small business world is of the opinion that a discussion of definitions of an independent contractor should not be part of a debate of deficit reduction. Using that debate to clamp down on out-sourcing for expertise is inappropriate and should not be part of the deficit reduction discussions.

The deficit reduction debate is likely not to go way any time soon and the small business world needs to be vigilant and stay on the top of its game to be sure that small business isn’t the entity that carries the big corporations on their back.

Gorin: A Key Concern for the Park Industry is Being Addressed

October 7, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

David Gorin

David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He’s also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at dgorinassociates@aol.com or at (703) 448-6863.

On Sept. 9, congressional leaders struck a deal late to extend temporarily the expiring laws governing the nation’s highways at roughly their current funding levels.

The bill would authorize programs for the current surface transportation laws through March 2012. Highway programs would be funded at the fiscal 2011 level of $41.7 billion, far above the $27 billion approved in their budget earlier this year. Because the extension is for six months and not a full year, the actual amount authorized is half of the fiscal 2011 level.

Without action, authorization for the highway program would expire at the end of September and both President Barack Obama and members of Congress have warned that scenario could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., secured an agreement from Republican leaders to find revenue later to ensure that the money spent from the highway trust fund on the short-term extension does not leave him without the funds necessary to win approval of a long-term reauthorization of surface transportation laws next year.

The higher funding level for highway programs may cause heartburn with some House and Senate members but transportation projects generally win support from both Republicans and Democrats, in part because they are an easy way to show folks back home that they are bringing jobs and infrastructure to their districts.

The text of the bill was posted to the House Rules Committee website late on Sept. 9, meaning it was likely to be considered on the floor during the week of Sept. 12. (This column is being written on Sept. 13).

This is an important step both for the economy in terms of jobs and for the park industry in terms of continuation of highway improvement projects important to RVers traveling the nation’s highways.

What’s Going on With Park Models?

Over the last few years, there’s been a growing perception that the park industry is moving rapidly and dramatically in the direction of rental units in RV parks and campgrounds and that park models are becoming increasingly popular among park owners and park guests as the rental unit of choice.

In preparing for a presentation later this week, I was reviewing the reported park model shipment data provided by the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA). RPTIA tracks shipments based on the sale of its certification seal that is affixed to each unit shipped by its members.

I was surprised to find that park model sales have declined significantly in recent years. We all know that every industry has been dramatically impacted by the 2008 and 2009 recession, but we also know that many industries experienced a turn around to at least some degree in 2010 and into 2011. The RV industry has had a strong sales increase in 2010 and into mid-2011. The park model industry, despite all of the hype in park industry trade press and company press releases, seems to remain in the recession.

Sales of park models seemed to have peaked in 2006 with RPTIA reporting shipments of 10,100 units. The decline began in 2007 when shipments dropped about 10% to 9,000 and then continued in 2008 to 6,900, to 4,400 in 2009 and 3,700 in 2010. RPTIA reports shipments at 1,400 units through May 2011, indicating an annual pace of perhaps 3,400 to 3,800 or so for the year.

A couple of possibilities exist here:

  • •Are there companies shipping park models that are not RPTIA members and therefore not included in the shipment numbers announced by the association? RPTIA, I believe, says it represents at least 80% of the production, which would indicate that perhaps the figures are missing maybe 700 or so units for 2011 and a bit more in the earlier years.
  • Are non-park model rental or long-term stay units and accommodations (destination trailers or large fifth-wheels, for example) taking a larger part of the market (cabins, yurts, RV trailers)?
  • Are perceptions being swayed by promotional releases, online conversations, company pronouncements or other hype that’s leading us to believe that park models and rental units are growing at a faster pace than is the actual situation?

Assuming roughly 10,000 commercial RV parks and campgrounds are out there, it would appear that relatively few parks either have large numbers of park models or that many parks have just a couple of these units.

The point is, is the rental side of the RV park business growing and are park models a significant part of that growth or is something else happening here – more RV trailers, more non-park model cabins, more yurts, more RV trailers?

There are further complications with park models these days as more and more parks and now even mobile home communities are touting park models as downsized housing and micro-living. RV parks across the country are latching on to the idea of annual site leases to accommodate both park models and destination trailers, leading one to believe that these units are suitable and intended for full time living or residences. The thought of park models becoming domiciles or residences has been an anathema to RPTIA and to many park owners. The park industry needs to be careful here. Promoting park models as a year-round vacation option, offering annual site leases and other similar practices that would tend to encourage year-round residency has long been an issue with local regulators and housing authorities. Caution on how park models are used, sold, promoted and discussed is critical.

Any comments? Be interested in any reader thoughts on this.

Taxes, Jobs and Political Stuff

On Sept. 8, the president offered his plan for a new stimulus effort. Within five minutes, there was a slew of press releases from Democrats praising it and from Republicans criticizing it. Washington – the home of all partisan, all day and all night. Having said that, I think there is a good chance Congress will pass some variation of the tax relief.

And on Sept. 12, the president announced how he intends to pay for the stimulus and tax relief and once again opened up Pandora’s Box – tax increases for individuals earning above $200,000 and for families earning above $250,000.

And the battle begins again.

What’s in it for small business?

Payroll Tax Relief

The president has proposed that employers get a reduction in their “payroll” taxes on wages paid. While everybody is using the term “payroll” tax, there are actually two separate taxes included in the federal “payroll” tax. The president is proposing a cut in one – what is commonly referred to as the “Social Security” tax. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is comprised of the Social Security (6.2%) tax and the Medicare (1.45%) tax. The president is proposing that the employer pay only 3.1% of the employer’s share of the Social Security tax for 2012.

Employers and employees “only” pay the Social Security tax on wages below a certain level. The annual income cap for the Social Security portion of FICA is $106,800 for 2011.

Although the exact language is not yet available, it may be safe to assume that the self-employed will be eligible for this reduction as well as for the reduced “employee” portion also proposed by the president. Those considered as self-employed pay both halves of the “payroll” tax.

The president is proposing to extend and expand the current temporary “payroll tax” break for employees. It currently is a 2% reduction in the Social Security tax. He would increase it to a 3.1% reduction for 2012.

New Hires and Increased Wages

The president has proposed a complete refund of the Social Security taxes paid by an employer on the wages of added workers or wage increases for current workers above the level of this year’s payroll. There would be additional targeted tax cuts for hiring the long-term unemployed as well as veterans who have been out of work six months or more.

Full Expensing

The president has proposed the extension of the current temporary 100% first year full expensing. This is not Section 179 expensing but the full expensing based on the depreciation “bonus” concept. Section 179 still exists but as the result of legislation last year, for practical purposes, hardly anyone will use it this year.

Section 179 has two components. It allows a business to write off a certain amount of a purchase of capital assets in the first year. However, the more a business buys in a year, the smaller the amount that can be written off by Section 179. After a certain amount of assets are purchased, only regular depreciation can be used.

In recent years, the use of legislative depreciation “bonuses” allowed more to be written off in the first year. The significance of it is that the business is not constrained by the amount of assets bought in the year. The business can write off essentially everything purchased.

When the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act, Public Law 111-312 was signed into law on Dec. 17, 2010, they went for the whole enchilada (as the expression goes). The law extended and expanded the additional first-year depreciation “bonus” to equal 100% of the cost of qualified property placed in service after Sept. 8, 2010, and before Jan. 1, 2012. So as a result, while Section 179 is still on the books, the full expensing makes it a moot point for most business – for this year.

The president’s new proposal would extend the 100% full first year expensing through 2012.

Infrastructure

The president’s plan includes $50 billion in immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation. This is in addition to the funding discussed above for the regular extension of the federal highway program.

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