Paul Croteau, a marketing and business development expert and entrepreneur with a track record of success in electrical products, has joined Utility Supply Group, Kingston, Wash., as their senior sales engineer.
“Paul has over 25 years combined experience in design, development and sales of electrical products specifically for the RV and manufactured housing markets. His addition to our staff provides us with even stronger sales support, added technical service and overall customer service," Wade Elliott, president of USG, stated in a news release. “As a business owner, Paul knows the value of good service. Service, Product Knowledge and Industry Expertise; it’s a triple play for the USG team.”
Croteau, the former owner of Electrical Professionals LLC, has represented Eaton/Cutler Hammer and has worked for Milbank Manufacturing. He has participated in many national, regional and state trade shows. Croteau stated, “I am pleased to join a top tier company such as Utility Supply Group. I have known Wade Elliott for many years. Joining forces will help solidify USG’s commitment to their customers.”
Utility Supply Group is a supplier of electrical power outlets pedestals and boxes, and electrical distribution equipment for RV parks and manufactured housing communities throughout North America. You can reach them at (800) 800‐2811 or info@go‐usg.com. Paul can be reached at (800) 800‐2811 Ext‐101 or at paul@go‐usg.com.
Editor's Note: WCM Publisher Sherman Goldenberg interviewed a number of vendors at the 2012 ARVC conference in Las Vegas. In this second of several installments that will be published online, he shares his findings in a story that appears in its entirety in the January issue of Woodall's Campground Management.
“We are up about 7% year-over-year, and someday we hope that we will get back to pre-recession levels,” said Wade Elliott, president of Utility Supply Group, a Seattle-area firm that markets electrical-utility site hoses, electric and water meters, distribution panels and other items related to RV and MH park and marina structures. "Seven percent is good. We'll take it and continue to grow from there."
The biggest obstacle in returning to a pre-recessionary pace of business right now is economic uncertainty, Elliott observed. “I think the economy is still wondering about where we go from here. I’ve always been of the mind that my customers, being consumers themselves, don’t spend money when they don’t know what’s going to happen this year. So, they’ve deferred a lot of purchases and maintenance. I think there is a lot of pent-up demand there.
“At some point,” he added, “people are going to say they have to fix the things they’ve got. They’ve got to do the upgrades they want to do. In order for parks to stay even, they’ve got to continue to put capital into their own parks. That pent-up demand at some point is going to break loose — and be good for the industry and for myself and my competitors.”
An ARVC board member who experienced increased traffic as an exhibitor at the Las Vegas conference, Elliott was elected to ARVC’s Supplier Council at the conference, and that’s not a job that he takes lightly. “We need to get suppliers more involved and to be more of a force for good inside the organization — someone who has some leadership, a force to be reckoned with, not in a negative sense,” said Elliott. “We want to be someone that the membership and the staff listens to. More suppliers being heard means they have more worth inside the organization, meaning you get more suppliers advertising and selling to the membership.”
Red Rover, a Fledgling Player in the Campground Biz, Exhibits at ARVC
Making its first appearance at an ARVC Conference were representatives of Red Rover, a marketing company set up as a subsidiary of Southern Pines, N.C.-based Trident Marketing intended to create new customers and drive them to campgrounds to fill empty campsites using state-of-the-art social media, web-based and high-tech marketing technology.
And President Robert Bouse, a former KOA executive who operates out of Austin, Tex., says Red Rover had a “phenomenal” show that “far exceeded expectations.”
“It wasn’t an accident,” said Bouse. “Through publications we did teaser-type ads to get peoples’ interest starting in September to bring them to the concept that Red Rover was something, but they didn’t know what it was. And then each month we added a little bit more to the teaser so that by the time they got here, people were asking, ‘what is this Red Rover thing?’
“Once people found out there is no cost to entry and no contract and the only time it costs them anything is when we actually send them a customer and that it’s a pay-as-you-go marketing program, they’re receptive to the idea,” he added. “We spend all the money, do all the research, drive all the customers in and don't get paid until they actually show up."
Trident, employing a variety of social media marketing tools that the firm utilizes in generating $59 million a year in sales leads for the nation’s second-largest reseller of DIRECTV satellite television service, itself owns six campgrounds comprising Travel Resorts of America.
“Nobody is doing that level of marketing in campgrounds,” said Bouse, noting that his company employes 30 webmasters, 40 social media people and 20 IT workers. “So, our company has looked at that and combined our 30 years of expertise in campground operation with our marketing expertise and is taking it to the industry.”
LCN Outdoor’s Boucher Says ‘Most People are Optimistic’
Business has been pretty good this year for LCN Outdoors LLC, Windsor, Conn., according to owner Norman H. Boucher, whose wholesale distributorship purveys a wide variety of items utilized by campgrounds for the retail store and elsewhere — everything from RV supplies to toys, novelties, apparel, swimming and suntan products, fishing equipment, kayaks, electrical products, fire rings, picnic tables and energy-saving devices.
“The year’s been OK,” said Boucher. “We’ve been on about par with last year, and last year wasn’t a bad year for us. Now, we’ve diversified. We’ve got more electrical boxes that we are selling. That’s helped us out. The toys — that part of the business seems to be slowing down a little bit. But all the other stuff that we’re picking up is making the difference.”
Long story short, Boucher’s sense of the RV park and campground business in general right now is pretty upbeat. “Most of the people are optimistic,” said Boucher, standing in front of his ARVC conference booth. “They’ve made the proper moves in the last two to three years that keep them going, especially those people who are coming to conferences like this and learning about what’s going on, what’s coming out new, learning the real meaning of outdoor hospitality, learning about the water parks and spray parks and camping cabins and park models, the importance of those in growing their business.
Next: Fairmont Gains Ground in Park Trailer Business
“Slow, but sure.” That’s the way Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group in Kingston, Wash., sees the nation’s economic recovery, judging from the pace of sales of pedestals and other electrical products to campgrounds across North America.
“It is a better year than last year and last year was better than the year before,” he said.
Elliott said the pace of sales is constrained to some extent by lenders, who aren’t as forthcoming with loans as they were before the recession.
As a result, he said, many park operators are using their savings to pay for electrical upgrades, rather than borrowing money to pay for bigger installations.
“So we see a lot of jobs,” Elliott said, but many of them are relatively small installations of electrical pedestals and related equipment for 15 or 20 sites or less.
Park operators are also careful with how they spend their money.
“Lots of people are refurbishing and continuing to extend the life of their infrastructure as much as they can,” Elliott said.
Other electrical product suppliers provided Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) with similar perspectives.
“I’m seeing more replacements of existing meters,” said Lisa Senior, general manager of Hialeah Meter Co., Hialeah, Fla., which sells remanufactured meters for both electricity and water across the U.S. and Canada.
However, some suppliers are generating sales from new and expanding parks.
“We just had the biggest order in our history for 440 pedestals for a brand new RV park in Washington,” said Terry Linnell of B & B Electrical in Keego Harbor, Mich., a Detroit suburb.
She added that B & B sells everything related to electrical equipment that an RV park would need, including meters, wire, lights and signage.
While utility product sales are often fueled by park improvement and expansion efforts, this year’s sales have also been driven by rising power and water costs, which are prompting park operators to invest in more metering equipment.
“People are really going out and metering,” said Maggie Linnell of Your Electrical Solutions in Orion, Mich. She added that much of the metering demand is coming from parks with seasonal sites that are affected by rising water and power costs.
Meters are also a key sales item for York, S.C.-based Vision Metering, according to Jenner Sequeira, sales manager.
Kathleen Kullberg, marketing manager for Cleveland, Ohio-based Eaton Corp., said campgrounds, RV parks and resorts are also increasingly investing in her company’s wireless meter reading systems, which enable park managers to monitor utility costs without having to physically check the meters at each campsite.
Paul Croteau, principal of Electrical Professionals in Kansas City, Mo., said he is also seeing increased sales of portable electric meters as well as solar products.
“Business has been very good compared to the prior year, probably up 15 percent to 20 percent,” he said.
Croteau said portable meters are particularly popular in parks with seasonal sites because they can be easily moved.
Solar powered lighting systems are also increasingly being used to illuminate pathways, decks and boat docks. Higher output solar lighting products are also in demand to illuminate bathhouses, parking lots, flags, monuments and signs.
While solar powered systems can provide lighting all night long if they receive sufficient sunlight during the day, some systems also have high and low settings to conserve power as well as motion activated sensors that automatically switch the devices to higher illumination settings when people walk by.
Croteau said park operators are increasingly purchasing solar products to avoid the high cost of installing new electrical lines to remote sections of their parks. Solar powered systems are self-contained units.
Park operators are also continuing to purchase a variety of devices that save both power and water.
Elliott of Utility Supply Group said he is seeing growing demand for his XLerator electric hand dryers, which save park operators money on paper towels and trash pickup, while reducing the accumulation of paper waste in bathrooms.
“Once people use them,” he said, “they never want to go back to paper.”
Elliott added that demand for electric hand dryers continues to grow.
“Somebody will buy one or two and try it and then they’ll come back the next year and bring their friends,” he said.
Covington, Ky.-based Monarch Coin & Security Inc., for its part, is seeing rising demand for coin and token operated meters that limit power and water consumption, said Tom Benken, the company’s sales and marketing manager.
The company also provides timers that can be set up to regulate lighting needed for basketball or tennis courts or other outdoor areas.
While some parks don’t want to charge for showers, Benken said park operators can provide their guests with tokens, which limit the duration of their showers while also preventing people who are not guests from using the showers.
Benken said the drought that has affected much of the country this year has increased demand for meters that limit water consumption.
Of course, while many utility products are necessities for campgrounds, suppliers of these products also tell WCM they benefit from the fact that their products are American made.
“My products are made in the United States. That is a big deal to our customers,” Elliott said, adding, “Campground operators tend to buy American if they can. That’s important to them.”
Doug Dalton, sales manager for Jamestown Advanced Products in Jamestown, N.Y., promotes the fact that his company manufacturers its power outlets, pedestals and other electrical products onsite.
“We’re looking to make sure that all of America knows about Jamestown Advanced Products and the quality products we have in our production line,” Dalton said.
Some of the Electrical Meter Suppliers to the RV Park and Campground Industry
B & B Electrical
Overview: B & B Electrical has been providing electrical products for RV parks and mobile home communities since 1968.
Product Speciality: B & B’s product lineup includes pedestals, surface boxes and accessories, electric wire, as well as electric meters and conversion kits. The company also offers light posts, water and gas meters and pre-construction meter mounts.
Management: Richard Linnell, president and owner.
Contact: 2804 Orchard Lake Road, Keego Harbor, MI 48320; (888) 391-3802 or (248) 391-3800; www.bbelec.com/index.php.
Overview: Cleveland, Ohio-based Eaton Corp. acquired RV Park Hookups in 2006, the latter of which had been supplying pedestals and other equipment for campgrounds and RV parks since 2000.
Product Speciality: Pedestals, which it markets using the Powerhouse, Park Light and Newport Camp Mate product names.
Management: Todd Butler, business operations manager.
Contact: 149 Warwick Court, Williamsburg, Va. 23185; (800) 723-8009; or visit the company’s website at www.marinapower.com. Paul Croteau of Electrical Professionals in Kansas City, Mo., serves as a manufacturer’s representative for Eaton. He can be reached at (816) 478-4746.
Hialeah Meter Co.
Overview: This company has been providing high quality, remanufactured watt-hour meters since 1954.
Product Speciality: While it’s best known for its remanufactured meters, Hialeah also provides a full line of power outlets, pedestals, sockets and socket accessories.
Management: Eugene Bixby, president and CEO.
Contact: 450 W. 28th Street, Hialeah, Fla. 33011; (800) 654-0821; www.hialeahmeter.com.
Jamestown Advanced Products Corp.
Overview: Jamestown Advanced is a custom steel manufacturing company with 196,000 square feet of manufacturing space and over a decade of experience in custom design fabrication. The company began producing campground and RV products in 1995. Its customer base includes state parks, municipalities, federal properties and privately owned RV parks and campgrounds across North America.
Product Speciality: Campsite amenities, including pedestals, campfire rings, grills, picnic tables, lantern holders, benches and mailboxes.
Management: Wendi Lodestro, president.
Contact: 2855 Girts Road, Jamestown, N.Y. 14701; (800) 452-0639 or (716) 483-3406; www.jamestownadvanced.com.
Monarch Coin & Security Inc.
Overview: Monarch was founded in 1905 and has become one of the nation’s leading providers of coin operated devices that control the use of washing machines, dryers, showers, door locks and other devices.
Product Speciality: Monarch’s specialties include the Monarch Key Kop, the AquaMiser shower timer and universal bathroom lock.
Management: Stephanie Hall, president and CEO
Contact: P.O. Box 427, Covington, KY 41012; (800) 462-9460; www.monarchcoin.com.
Utility Supply Group Inc.
Overview: Utility Supply Group is a nationwide distributor of electrical products for campgrounds, RV parks and manufactured housing communities.
Product Speciality: Pedestals, power outlet boxes, meter socket kits, digital and clock type electronic meters. The company also provides water and gas meters as well as replacement parts and accessories as well as XLerator hand dryers.
Management: Wade Elliott, president.
Contact: 26519 Bond Rd. NE, Kingston, Wash. 98346; (800) 800-2811; www.go-usg.com.
Overview: Originally founded as Austin International, the company changed its name to Vision Metering LLC in 2011. The company describes itself as the world’s largest supplier of utility products and services. Product Speciality: Low-profile E-Z read meters as well as socket and mounting kits. Management: Randy Austin, owner
Contact: 7 Ross Cannon Street, York, SC 29745; (803) 628-0035; www.electricalconnector.com.
Your Electrical Solutions
Overview: This company was founded in January 2012 by Maggie Linnell, who previously worked for B & B Electrical.
Product Speciality: Products include pedestals, surface boxes and accessories; metering and group metering equipment, water meters, wire and lighting.
Management: Maggie Linnell, owner.
Contact: 2737 Browning Dr., Lake Orion, MI 48360; (248) 391-2400; www.yourelectricalsolutions.net.
The leading suppliers to the outdoor hospitality industry wrapped up a busy 2011 season with major trade shows in the final quarter of the year.
Within a five-week span, vendors were crisscrossing the nation for outdoor hospitality-centered shows in Las Vegas (Kampgrounds of America), Covington, Ky. (Leisure Systems Inc.) and Savannah, Ga. (National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds) Other shows were in Louisville, Ky., and even on the Internet.
These companies – vendors of everything today’s RV park or campground needs to succeed – report good prospects as the year came to an end.
Lewiston, Maine-based Evergreen Insurance has a busy year-end schedule that is typical of other campground vendors.
“This fall/winter season Evergreen is attending over a dozen conventions stretching from Maine to Alaska and including state organizations, national ARVC, KOA and Yogi,” said Lucas Hartford, president. “While some vendors are choosing the route of virtual trade shows, and we recognize the importance of technology, we still feel it is extremely important to meet campgrounds and parks face to face. Insurance purchasing requires someone to trust their agent and this can only done by seeing people and not solely by e-mail, virtual trade shows or video conferencing.
“So this year Evergreen is making sure to see people face-to-face at conventions and then to introduce them to technological tools that we offer that can make their life easier. We have recently revised our website to make it much more client friendly including a new section of client-only articles and information. We have also released a new video produced exclusively for the camping industry that is available to clients on DVD or online which is titled “Emergencies: Are You Prepared?”
Athens Park Homes has seen business increase 17% in “a very flat market,” noted Dick Grymonprez, vice president of sales and marketing for the Athens, Texas-based park model manufacturer.
“Our Rental Cottage series is our most popular line of cabins because they come standard with a 6-foot front porch and they have very rental friendly floorplans and features. In this economy, people seem more open to renting at a campground or resort than they do purchasing somewhere,” he said.
Athens Park Homes just participated in the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) Fall Conference at the Vineyards Campground in Grapevine. They purchased seven cabins from Athens Park Homes in 2010 and they have helped the campground increase revenue by 30% in 2011. At the conference Athens Park Homes was named the "indorsed provider" for the TACO members.
Ron Romens, president and owner of Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS), was excited to introduce the company’s new “H2 Whoa Zone” concept at the trade shows. The “Zone” is a business model whereby a campground owner can convert any waterfront setting into an attraction.
“We have recruited landscape architects and aquatic biologists to give an owner a master plan what that area would look like, then help them with their business model to help them operate that as well,” explained Romens. “It’s a model that works very well in the campground industry. We have done it informally the last few years but will formalize it a little more and put some design parameters around it.”
As for new products, CRS also unveiled the “Zoom Flume.” This inflatable slide is just 9 inches deep and is designed to be set on a hillside and exit into a lake or pond. The flumes come in 30-foot-long sections. “You could link four of these 30-foot sections and have a 120-foot hillside water slide,” Romens noted.
Now is a good time to introduce some economical alternatives such as the “Zoom Flume,” Romens said. “The reason I think the timing is good,” he said, “is all this is very active recreation. It gets kids moving, gets families recreating together. It’s very sustainable. It’s bringing people back to nature. Water parks have been very big for a long time but there is a lot of overhead. It is much less expensive to start up and build a facility like this, even to dig your own lake, and costs less to operate.”
“We set one up in Oklahoma and the owner sold 20,000 day passes in six weeks. You don’t have to charge a lot of money either to create this attraction,” Romens said.
CRS also is showing its Wibit line of inflatable water toys, a new standup paddleboard, mini golf, playground structures and shade structures.
Eric Stumberg, co-founder of TengoInternet, the leading Wi-Fi service provider for the outdoor hospitality industry, says Wi-Fi data usage is up 100% and mobile devices such as iPhones, Droids, iPads and iPods have become the No. 1 devices connecting to the networks.
As a result, he says, “We are showing products and services to increase Wi-Fi network capacity to meet rising guest expectations and services/economics to pay for the higher service level.”
Stumberg expects 2012 to be a strong year.
Jamestown Advanced Products is showcasing its new line of dog park products.
“We see dog park receptacles and agility park equipment as being huge for us in 2012,” said Robb Jones, sales manager for the Jamestown, N.Y.-based firm.
In addition, he added, “We will display our Fire View Ring, which we rolled out earlier in 2011 to much success. Our brand new Smoker Grill will be showcased as well. We also have a new addition to our stable of bike racks, which is called the Cassadaga rack.”
Peter Kearns of Niagara Falls, Ontario-based Mission Management Information Systems said his company is showcasing an upgrade to its www.bookyoursite.com booking system that will allow the camper consumer to better select the site for which they prefer over the Internet. The company is also releasing Campground Manager Software that enhances functionality and improves the accounting and marketing utility of the product, he said.
“The big push will be on the testing and exhibiting of our new iPhone application. We are excited by this,” Kearns said. “The iPhone app will allow campgrounds with Bookyoursite.com to receive reservations booked through a camper’s iPhone and iPad. Later, Android and BlackBerry capability will be added.”
He added, “The next year we are expecting our online booking Bookyoursite.com business to grow in the double figure range and the Campground Manager Software property management side to grow in the single digit numbers. We are seeing more and more parks on the corporate end focus exclusively on the seasonal camper, which should increase business for our transient customers.
Chris Kornely, the self-styled “diva of dump stations” at The Tower Co., reported “an excellent trade show” at the recent KOA Convention where “orders were brisk.”
Manitowoc, Wis.-based Tower is showing its water tower and accessories for campground dump stations and DOGIPOT pet waste products, along with Pick Up Stix for garbage cleanup.
“As we say at The Tower Co., ‘We are good for crap of all kinds!’ At The Tower Co. we want to make the experience of dump station purchase and maintenance as easy as possible and have a little fun too. We are proud to have customers tell us they have had their towers serving their dump station needs for over 45 years.”
LCN Outdoors, Windsor, Conn., promoted RV parts at its shows.
“It’s a good deal for operators if they accept selling parts to people,” said Norman Boucher, president. These include drawer guides, hinges and the like, things that break on RVs and often need replacing.
He also is promoting an energy-saving device from Peak Energy that recycles electricity in your home or small business. “We had it at the NCA convention and sold a bunch of them,” he noted.
Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group showed the company’s Heritage line of pedestals and surface mount boxes, the Xlerator Hand Dryer, electric meters, add a meter kits and water meters used to reduce resource usage, wire and distribution panels, electrical layouts, electrical vehicle chargers, replacement and repair parts and Pagoda light kits.
He observed, “2010 was a very good year for them, so (being) even with last year, it is not so bad, considering. I would say that most parks are cautious and uncertain about 2012. I believe that the outdoor hospitality industry will still outperform other vacation and recreation options and look forward to a good year in 2012.”
Tyler Duffy, president of Campground Automation Systems Inc., Mt. Juliet, Tenn., is promoting his company’s new Sunrise product.
“Sunrise is an advanced reservations management service that combines all types of reservation management needs into a single real-time service,” he told WCM. “Sunrise provides an end-to-end system that includes user-friendly online reservations, a powerful campground owner's management system, convenient self-service express check-in kiosks, and utility control and metering. The elegantly simple user interface is easy to learn and use. Each component is designed to provide a fully integrated, efficient, user-friendly experience.”
He added, “Sunrise provides real-time, online reservations that are fully integrated with the campground owners' management system for efficiency and convenience. Double data-entry is a thing of the past. The system is web-based so not only can customers access reservation information anytime, but the campground owner can manage their business from the park office, home or anywhere else they can access an Internet browser. No more waiting to retrieve important information from the single desktop located in the campground office, or paying multiple licensing fees to purchase copies of the software for separate computers.”
Pete Parafin of Fluid Manufacturing Inc., Lodi, Calif., says he expects sales of the company’s coin-operated shower systems to be “brisk” in 2012.
“Our shower control systems can save the parks big time money in water, sewage fees and utilities to heat the water,” he said. “Not only that, but to provide an excellent opportunity to add a little income to recover costs as well.”
The system enhances customer control of their showers, while creating an income stream to help pay for the cost of maintaining facilities, Parafin noted. In addition, most campers surveyed have been completely supportive of the program.
Enviro Design Products, Dunnellon, Fla., is promoting several waste management products for 2012, including its Grip-N-Lock, a watertight locking nylon sewer cap, and its brand new “Footloose,” a foot-operated, self-closing, odor-proof sewer cap “that’s going to add a new spin on sewer caps,” said company spokesman William Watts.
All three sewer cap models now come in three standard colors, but custom colors are available.
“This year we are discussing with our clients the need to provide increased bandwidth to their guests,” said Jim Ganley of CheckBox Systems, Gray, Maine. “As more travelers carry more devices that are Wi-Fi- and data-enabled, the amount of bandwidth that a property had available even a few years ago is likely insufficient today.
“We have the new HSv4 gateway controller that allows properties to use multiple Internet connections to increase bandwidth – for example, a DSL and cable modems together feeding the same system, or using multiple DSL modems to feed a system.
“We are also updating software to help properties mitigate issues with radio noise and to deal with P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing issues.”
He concluded, “2012 is looking really busy, as we see growth continuing in the outdoor hospitality sector, as well as lots of growth in other areas, such as water parks, amusement parks and public venues.”
Murray Kramer of Kramer Kreations, Pensacola, Fla., inventor of the Murbles game, reports growing popularity of his invention. The game, which resembles bocce, is now in 24 states. He doubled his 2010 sales in 2011 and says, “I think in 2012 we’ll turn the corner big time.”
The Murbles game is gaining traction in KOA stores (he was at the KOA Convention in Las Vegas to drum up new business) and he is making major inroads in Good Sam Samborees and rallies across the Southeast.
"A product that was unexpectedly popular for us in 2011 was our bear-proof trash and recycling receptacles,” said Bob Simonsen, spokesman for R.J. Thomas Mfg. Co. Inc./Pilot Rock, Cherokee, Iowa. “We've expanded the product line and had all models independently tested to be bear proof. We expect this popularity to continue in 2012.
“Plus, campfire rings are always popular. And there is a growing trend for site amenities to be in color. Whether the customer needs picnic tables or benches or trash receptacles, there is a demand for these products to be offered in a variety of colors.
He continued, “The last two years have been good for us, and we see that continuing in 2012. In 2009 when the recession first hit, many people were concerned how it would affect the camping industry. I know we were concerned. But as WCM has since reported, people still went camping, but maybe they didn't travel so far to do it. We saw the same thing in our business. Product requirements from campgrounds have been steady to increasing.”
“I would say our primary concern for 2012 is with the state park systems. Many states have been closing state parks because of budget problems. I attended the annual National Association of State Park Directors conference held in Custer, S.D., in September. Park sustainability (keeping parks open) was a big topic of discussion. When state budgets are cut the park directors are stuck in a position of making some tough decisions. Hopefully the worst of state park closures is behind us.”
Utility Supply Group (USG), Preston, Wash., is known for providing the knowledge to go with its lines of electrical products for RV parks.
President Wade Elliott wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s what gives us a competitive edge,” said Elliott, a fixture a most key industry trade events. “There are many people out there looking for answers and we offer knowledge, not just products.”
Elliott purchased assets from Traveler’s Utility in January 2002 and formed a new company, Utility Supply Group.
“The industry needed a company that had knowledgeable people that understand RV parks and their electrical needs and could convey that to people with questions,” Elliott explains. “We have experience, and we keep items — anywhere from $350,000 to $500,000 worth — in stock. When someone wants something, we can respond. Having products in stock and employing knowledgeable people — that is important.”
USG offers electrical pedestals, surface mount boxes, meter kits, electric meters, water meters, wire, distribution panels, transformers, breakers, receptacles, pagoda light kits and replacement parts for all of these items.
Pedestals include breakers and receptacles, as well as the post and conduit for complete installation. Surface mount boxes include the breakers and receptacles. The boxes mount on poles or any vertical surface.
USG is also a leading vendor to parks of the Excel hand dryer, XLerator, found inside many campground restroom facilities. A well-known electrical manufacturer distributes USG products in the United States, Elliott noted, adding that USG’s own product line is called the Heritage Line, but the company also sells Midwest, Cutler-Hammer and Milbank products.
“We have a new line of pedestals in development,” Elliott said. “We will still keep the existing line and the new line will be an addition. We continue to improve on the products we have. “
To add to his company’s expertise, Elliott sits on several boards, including the National Electric Code panel that determines what the national code should be for RV parks.
“We do electrical layouts when someone has an idea for what their RV park should look like,” he said. “Not only do we have experience, but we have the technical knowledge from our participation in these standards panels and our relationship with manufacturers. This adds to our knowledge base.”
Business is stacking up about the same in 2011 as 2010, according to Elliott.
“From my perspective RV park owners are concerned about the future and while they have full RV parks this year, they may not next year,” Elliott said. “That worries people. In late 2008 uncertainty entered the market such that in 2009 RV parks didn’t know what would happen next. 2010 was better. 2011 is as good as 2010 and people are still wondering where the economy is going from here.”
As for his company, Elliott’s outlook is positive.
“It is great to be in this business because I think this business is up overall,” he said. “I think our future is positive. I am always looking to improve our brand recognition and our name recognition. We advertise. We mail postcards and catalogs each year. We go to a lot of state and national association shows. We are always looking to get our name out in front of people.”
Contact: Utility Supply Group, P.O. Box 267, Preston, WA 98050, (800) 800-2811, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.go-usg.com. Visit the web address to view USG’s online catalog.
Attendees at the Texas Association of Campground Owners’ (TACO Spring Convention received a briefing this week on how to provide recharge services for travelers with electric cars.
Wade Elliott of Preston, Wash.-based Utility Supply Group said the prices for electric vehicle recharge equipment as it becomes available range from $700 to $3,500 for each station. However, such equipment could be available at lower prices in the future, according to a news release.
In the meantime, Elliott said, there are several ways park operators can accommodate travelers who need to recharge their electric vehicles.
Perhaps the best way, he said, is to install a dedicated 50-amp GFCI protected/240-volt outlet on the side of their camp store or office that is solely to be used for electric vehicle recharging. This method, which is already being used by some campground operators, enables the park to provide the service without tying up a campsite.
If that option is not available, Elliott recommends that park operators refer their electric vehicle recharge customers to unoccupied campsite loops with 50 amp / 240 volt electrical hookups. This way, electric vehicle owners can recharge their vehicles without overloading the circuits or competing for electricity with other RVers who are plugged into the same electrical circuit. In either case, the electric vehicle owner will need an adapter to connect to their car, though most electric car owners already have such adapters.
It is possible for electric vehicles to be recharged with 50-amp/240-volt RV hookups. But Elliott said that no more than one vehicle should be allowed to do this per electrical loop so as not to overload the circuits. There are typically two to 10 campsites per electrical loop, he said.
Elliott provided the electric vehicle recharge seminar Tuesday at TACO’s Spring Convention at Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville because consumer interest in using campgrounds as electrical vehicle recharge stations is growing.
Elliott said electric vehicles typically require about 40 kilowatts of power for a four-hour charge, the price of which varies across the country. Park owners, for their part, are charging anywhere from $8.50 to $15 for a four-hour charge, with most charging about $10.
“You’re not just selling power. You’re selling convenience,” Elliott said, adding, “A lot of RV parks sitting alongside highways and interchanges are in a perfect position to take advantage of this.”
Lucas Hartford, president of Evergreen USA, said in a separate interview that he does not foresee any increased liability for park owners that allow their RV pedestals to be used for electric vehicle recharging, so long as their equipment meets the relevant electrical codes.
Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Md., is probably one of the greenest campgrounds in the country, having made substantial investments in solar panels for water heating and power generation.
But two years ago, a visitor from the University of Delaware opened park owner Mike Gurevich’s eyes to yet another way his park can support the environment:
“This guy knocked on the door and said, ‘Can I charge my car?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Using a campground’s 50-amp/240 volt electric hookups, most electric vehicle owners can charge their cars in about four hours.
So what do people do when they’re waiting at Cherry Hill Park for their vehicles to recharge?
“They just hang out,” Gurevich explained in a news release. “Some sit at our picnic tables and work on their computers, using our Wi-Fi system. Others eat lunch at our café.”
Only a handful of electric car owners have used Cherry Hill Park for refueling purposes so far, but Gurevich plans to market the concept in the coming weeks in an effort to build a new business base and to support the environment. He charges $10 for a four-hour charge.
While the concept of using campgrounds as refueling stops for electric vehicles is enticing for many park operators, if the concept takes off, campgrounds may need to eventually install dedicated pedestals for electric vehicles so as not to tie up too many campsites with electric vehicles, said Wade Elliott, president and CEO of Utility Supply Group, an RV and electric vehicle pedestal supplier based in Preston, Wash.
“I see the idea of recharging electric vehicles as an opportunity for campground and RV park operators,” Elliott said. “But if more and more of these vehicles come into their parks merely to be recharged, park operators may want to put in three or four dedicated circuits near their store or swimming pool and not use their campsites to do this.”
Aside from tying up campsites with electric vehicles, if more than two or three vehicles are recharging their batteries at the same time, it could affect the amount of power that’s available to other campers and pose potential electric load management issues. “With a dedicated electric vehicle circuit, you don’t have to worry about running afoul of the National Electric Code,” Elliott said.
In Maryland and California, campground operators are reporting a gradual uptick in inquiries from electric vehicle owners who are considering using campgrounds as refueling stops on long haul trips. Travelers who do this typically have adapters with them that enable them to plug into 50-amp /240 volt electric pedestals that campgrounds often provide with their RV sites.
“We’ve been getting quite a few calls from people wanting to charge their vehicles at our park,” said Russ Yates, owner of Holiday Park Campground in Greensboro, Md., adding that he’s installed a separate 50-amp/240 volt plug on the side of the campground office so that people can recharge their vehicles without having to park in a campsite. He charges $8.50 for a four-hour charge.
“Most people who come to our park to recharge their vehicles come up to our store and buy snacks. Or they get on their laptops and send e-mail. But most of them simply take a nap in their vehicle or they walk around our park and sit by the river,” Yates said.
Patrick Stone, owner of Mountain Gate RV Park in Redding, Calif., said he’s also had several people stop by his park to recharge their vehicles. “Normally,” he said, “they’re on their way north or south and they need a pretty good charge to get over the mountains.”
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, for its part, plans to create a listing of parks that offer electric vehicle refueling services on its GoCampingAmerica website.
“With over 3,300 members, we will over time gather all of this information and make it available online, but clearly the potential is there for the nation’s private campground owners to help support the greening of the nation’s transportation infrastructure,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in Denver, Colo.
“Campgrounds,” he added, “are an ideal place for electric vehicle owners to take a break from driving. Most have swimming pools, lakes and scenic venues and wireless Internet service, if you need to check email or do work while your vehicle is recharging. Many campgrounds also offer rental accommodations, so you can recharge your vehicle and spend the night and be ready to hit the road the next day.”
Cherry Hill Park, a Best Parks in America affiliate serving the Washington, D.C., market, has a hot tub and solar heated swimming pool as well as cabin and yurt rentals, while Mountain Gate Park in California offers park model rentals and a solar heated swimming pool. Holiday Park Campground, for its part, is a Good Sam Park with rental trailers, tennis courts, playgrounds, a large swimming pool as well as hiking and nature trails.
This year — 2010 — has generally been a good year for private campgrounds and RV parks, with most reporting occupancies and revenue at least on par with last year’s figures, if not better.
It’s also been a good year for companies that supply electrical equipment as many of the nation’s older parks continue to replace pedestals and meters and upgrade their electrical hookups to include 50-amp connections.
Electrical equipment vendors also report that private parks are adding electrical hookups to campsites that haven’t had electricity before. “Business is great!” said Lisa Senior, general manager of Hialeah Meter Co. in Hialeah, Fla. “It’s been a better year than last year. We can’t produce meters fast enough.”
Senior said most of her customers purchase Hialeah’s remanufactured electrical meters, which are about a third the cost of new meters and come with a two-year warranty. Hialeah is also selling lots of pedestals, she said.
“I think parks know it behooves them to have a nice pedestal that the RVers can plug into and to meter the electricity so they can recover those costs,” she said, adding that she is seeing quite a bit of sales activity in Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.
Bob Dill, marketing manager for York, S.C.-based Austin International, is also seeing brisk sales activity. “We’ve had kind of a spurt this year from the Midwest to the Northeast primarily for our E-Z Read meters,” said Dill, whose company is the world’s largest manufacturer of remanufactured electric meters.
Rick Linnell, co-owner of B & B Electrical in Lake Orion, Mich., said his company has been very busy this year selling electrical wire as well as conversion kits and meters. “You’ve got a real problem if you don’t have 50 amp service,” Linnell said of park owners, adding that many parks have been upgrading entire sections of their campgrounds at one time.
Norman Boucher, co-owner of LCN Outdoors in Windsor, Conn., said his electrical business has been consistent with last year’s figures, with strong sales of pedestal boxes, meters and meter kits.
Jamestown, N.Y.-based Jamestown Advanced Products Corp. is also seeing rising demand for electrical products from public parks. “Right now, there are some big projects for 50-30-20 (pedestals) for government work,” said sales manager Rob Jones, adding, “We’ve seen some for rest areas that are going to be opening up soon.”
But while parks have been making considerable investments in electrical equipment, some have also been opting to purchase replacement parts rather than invest in brand new equipment.
“The big thing we saw over the summer, which continues actually, is that people are repairing or refurbishing boxes and pedestals rather than replacing them,” said Wade Elliott, president of Utility Supply Group in Issaquah, Wash, adding that his sales of replacement receptacles have been double last year’s figures.
“They’re doing this as a way to save costs,” Elliott said, adding that he believes park operator frugality is driven in part by continuing uncertainties about the economy.
“A lot of campground operators are doing OK this year, but they don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” he said.
Utility Supply Group is also continuing to sell pedestals and surface mount boxes, but the biggest increase has been in the company’s sales of replacement receptacles.
Campground operators are also looking to save money by investing in a variety of meters and timers to control everything from electricity to water and natural gas consumption, said Charles Robertson, corporate administrator for Monarch Coin & Security.
The Covington, Ky.-based company sells meters and timers and push button controls for pumps, sports court lighting, heaters and showers. “We’re seeing (parks with) tighter budgets,” Robertson said. “The things (park operators) would give away in the past they now meter.”
Here’s a sampling of companies that supply electrical equipment to private park operators:
* * * * *
COMPANY: Austin International Inc.
OVERVIEW: Austin International describes itself as the world’s largest remanufacturer of electric utility meters.
PRODUCT SPECIALTY: Low-profile E-Z read meters as well as socket and mounting kits.
MANAGEMENT: Randy Austin, owner
CONTACT: 7 Ross Cannon Street, York, SC 29745; (803) 628-0035; www.electricalconnector.com.
* * * * *
COMPANY: B & B Electrical
OVERVIEW: B & B Electrical has been providing electrical products for RV parks and mobile home communities since 1968.
PRODUCT SPECIALTY: B & B’s product lineup includes pedestals, surface boxes and accessories, electric wire, as well as electric meters and conversion kits. The company also offers light posts, water and gas meters and pre-construction meter mounts.
MANAGEMENT: Richard Linnell, president and owner.
CONTACT: 2737 Browning Drive, Lake Orion, MI 48360; (888) 391-3802 or (248) 391-3800; http://bbelec.com/index.php.
* * * * *
COMPANY: Eaton Corp.-RV Park Hookups
OVERVIEW: RV Park Hookups, acquired by Cleveland, Ohio-based Eaton Corp. in March of this year, has been supplying pedestals and other equipment for campgrounds and RV parks since 2000.
PRODUCT SPECIALTY: Pedestals, marketed under the Powerhouse, Power Tower, Park Light and Newport Camp Mate brand names.
MANAGEMENT: Greg Nailler, manager.
CONTACT: 149 Warwick Court, Williamsburg, Va. 23185; (800) 723-8009; or visit the company’s website at www.marinapower.com.
* * * * *
COMPANY: Hialeah Meter Co.
OVERVIEW: This company has been providing high quality, remanufactured watt-hour meters since 1954.
PRODUCT SPECIALTY: While it’s best known for its remanufactured meters, Hialeah also provides a full line of power outlets, pedestals, sockets and socket accessories.
MANAGEMENT: Eugene Bixby, president and CEO.
CONTACT: 450 W. 28th Street, Hialeah, Fla. 33011; (800) 654-0821; www.hialeahmeter.com.
* * * * *
COMPANY: Jamestown Advanced Products Corp.
OVERVIEW: Jamestown Advanced is a custom steel manufacturing company with 196,000 square feet of manufacturing space and over a decade of experience in custom design fabrication. The company began producing campground and RV products in 1995. Its customer base includes state parks, municipalities, federal properties and privately owned RV parks and campgrounds across North America.
PRODUCT SPECIALTY: Campsite amenities, including pedestals, campfire rings, grills, picnic tables, lantern holders, benches and mailboxes.
MANAGEMENT: Wendi Lodestro, president.
CONTACT: 2855 Girts Road, Jamestown, N.Y. 14701; (800) 452-0639 or (716) 483-3406; www.jamestownadvanced.com.
* * * * *
COMPANY: LCN Outdoors LLC
OVERVIEW: LCN is a nationwide distributor of products for campgrounds and RV resorts.
PRODUCT SPECIALTY: LCN provides a broad range of products for campground and RV park operators, including electrical boxes, cabins, canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, apparel and giftware. It has been serving since 2004 as a distributor for the electrical products of Milbank Manufacturing Co.
MANAGEMENT: Norm Boucher owns the business with his wife, Linda Lee.
CONTACT INFORMATION: 55 Mechanic Street, Windsor, Conn. 06095; (800) 552-2267; www.lcnoutdoors.com.
* * * * *
COMPANY: Monarch Coin & Security Inc.
OVERVIEW: Monarch was founded in 1905 and has become one of the nation’s leading providers of coin operated devices that control the use of washing machines, dryers, showers, door locks and other devices.
PRODUCT SPECIALTY: Monarch’s specialties include the Monarch Key Kop, the AquaMiser shower timer and universal bathroom lock.
MANAGEMENT: Stephanie Hall, president and CEO
CONTACT INFORMATION: P.O. Box 427, Covington, KY 41012; (800) 462-9460; www.monarchcoin.com.
* * * * *
COMPANY: Utility Supply Group Inc.
OVERVIEW: Utility Supply Group is a nationwide distributor of electrical products for campgrounds, RV parks and manufactured housing communities.
PRODUCT SPECIALTY: Pedestals, power outlet boxes, meter socket kits, digital and clock type electronic meters. Its latest pedestal is the ParkRanger, made of GE Lexan plastic. The company also provides water and gas meters as well as refurbished boxes and pedestals and replacement parts and accessories.
MANAGEMENT: Wade Elliott, president.
CONTACT: P.O. Box 2428, Issaquah, Wash. 98027; (800) 800-7082 (West Coast Office) or (800) 800-2811 (East Coast Office); www.go-usg.com.
While last month's ReV up in Reno convention in Sparks, Nev., provided private park operators with close to 20 educational seminars and cracker barrel sessions, twice as many campground industry suppliers offered their own form of education as they explained new products, discussed the pros and cons of joining franchise networks and troubleshot some of the problems they were having at their campgrounds.
“Most people (who come to see me) have a problem of some kind,” said Eric Stumberg, president and CEO of Austin, Texas-based TengoInternet, which provides wireless Internet service to campgrounds and their guests.
Stumberg said one of the biggest challenges park operators face comes from international guests who use Skype and Vonage to place Internet phone calls. But many parks haven’t yet invested in sufficient bandwidth to accommodate the needs of multiple Skype and Vonage users.
“You either have to have higher bandwidth or set expectations appropriately for your guests,” he said.
While attendance at the tradeshow was not as high as many had hoped for, several vendors said their business levels were improving this year.
“Our business is exploding,” said Leo Ganley of CheckBox Systems LLC, a Gray, Maine-based Wi-Fi service provider, adding that growing numbers of parks are recognizing that having Wi-Fi service is a “baseline requirement” for their guests.
Many of the vendors attending the show displayed items that had environmentally friendly applications, such as biodegradable pet waste products and non-polluting campfire fuels.
Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group was also on hand. But this time he wasn’t only showing power outlets and utility pedestals, but energy efficient hand dryers for bathrooms, which are manufactured by Xlerator. Elliott said the systems, which can dry one’s hands in less than 15 seconds, are so efficient that they pay for themselves in less than a year in electricity and paper towel savings. He said the manufacturer has a calculator at www.exceldryer.com, which park operators can use to calculate their potential savings based on their electricity and paper towel costs.
Elliott said the hand dryers were selling like hot cakes. “I’ve sold more of these units in the first three or four months of this year than I have in the past two years,” he said, adding that park operators are becoming increasingly interested in the paper saving units because of the rising cost of trash pickup.
Elliott said he is also seeing increased interest in compact fluorescent light bulbs, electric meters, timer boxes and lighting equipment with photo cells, which can turn the lights on and off depending on the amount of sunlight or darkness outside.
Meanwhile, Paul Croteau of Eaton Corp. was showing off several types of solar-powered lighting for RV sites, pathways and boat docks. “They’re a heck of a lot nicer than what you’d find at Home Depot,” he said.
Campground insurance providers were also available, explaining their latest campground insurance offerings, including Evergreen USA of Lewiston, Maine, and Sturgis, S.D.-based Leavitt Recreation & Hospitality Inc., which was promoting a new campground insurance program offered by Firemen’s Fund.
Representatives for Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts and Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) were also meeting with independent park operators to talk to them about joining their respective franchise systems.
A few steps away, David Gorin of Best Parks in America offered a special show rate for park operators interested in joining his network of 52 high quality parks. “We’d like to get some new affiliates in California,” he said. “This is a way for independent parks to leverage a well-known brand.”
Best Parks in America welcomed four industry powerhouse suppliers to their Strategic Partner Program.
Utility Supply Group, Texas Advertising, Suburban Propane and TengoInternet have joined forces with Best Parks to offer affiliate resorts product/service programs and other partnership benefits designed specifically for the Best Parks network, according to a news release.
“Much like the high standards used for park/resort affiliation, our Strategic Partners have proven themselves to be outstanding in their areas of expertise. We are pleased to partner with these four notable companies and look forward to their contribution to the Best Parks in America brand,” said David Gorin, president and CEO Best Parks in America.
Strategic Partners are nominated by current affiliated parks and companies must have at least a five-year track record of doing business in the park industry. Strategic Partner nominees meeting the nomination criteria have an opportunity to develop an ongoing, mutually supportive relationship and association with Best Parks in America and the affiliated parks. Developed in response to contacts from a number of companies that have reached out to Best Parks inquiring about a relationship with this new park brand, the Strategic Partner Program provides unique possibilities for all parties involved.
For more information on becoming a Strategic Partner or to learn more about Best Parks in America affiliation visit www.BestParks.net or contact Gorin by phone at (703) 448-6863 or e-mail at David@BestParksinAmerica.com.