Will MHInitiative’s ‘How to Save Our Industry?!’ be on MHI Agenda 26-28 Feb 2012?

Lest we forget….

‘Will MHInitiative®’s ‘How to Save Our Industry?!’ Challenge to the Manufactured Housing Institute, be Aired at its’ Legislative Conference in Arlington, VA., on 26 – 28 February 2012?’ GFA

Recalling recent manufactured housing & landlease community history….

The MHInitiative® movement (nee National State of the Asset Class caucuses or NSAC caucuses) began 2/27/2008 at the Fountainview Estates landlease community in Tampa, FL., when 100 property owners/operators convened, from across the U.S. to spend a day discussing their collective business experience in the face of a rapidly declining market for HUD Code manufactured homes. Result? Five Action Areas that continue to guide the realty asset class’ business model this day.

The following year, a mix of 100 HUD Code home manufacturers and landlease community owners/operators met at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame, Museum and Library facility in Elkhart, IN. This time around, the joint goal was to ascertain what LLCommunity owners sought in new home design and price, to make it attractive and enticing to order new homes from the factory, something rarely done in years preceding; and, from the owners/operators point of view, answer the question, ‘What can and will you do to earn our business?’ Result? A new home design concept now known as the Community Series Home or CSH; and, appointment of nearly three dozen Business Development Managers, by these manufacturers, to specialize in marketing their housing product to LLCommunity owners/operators throughout the U.S.

Then followed two years with no MHInitiative® caucus. Why? First, it took time for the industry and asset class to digest and, partially implement the aforesaid advances, e.g. Five Action Areas, CSH homes, and BDMs. And frankly, it was hoped our national elected and salaried leaders would imitate this successful national forum, at its’ annual Manufactured Housing Congress in Las Vegas, or during one or more national meetings hosted by the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’). Well, neither venue was utilized for that purpose.

So, during the 20th annual International Networking Roundtable in San Antonio, TX., this past Fall, the notion of a MHInitiative® caucus was discussed. Focus of such an event? To discuss, brainstorm, and effect a plan regarding ‘How to Save Our Industry?!’ And in recognition of successes already achieved on two previous 2/27 dates, the third MHInitiative® caucus was tentatively scheduled for 2/27/2012. When preliminary ‘notices of intent’ were distributed to MHIndustry & LLCommunity businessmen and women, 150+/- committed to participate! However, it was learned this would also be the date MHI planned to host its’ annual Legislative Conference in Arlington, VA.

But that was OK. While the previous three MHI national meetings attracted barely 100 participants apiece, it was felt this might be an even better, intra industry segment forum at which to finally discuss, collectively brainstorm, and jointly effect a comprehensive plan regarding ‘How to Save Our Industry?!’ And there’s precedent of sorts, for such an MHI meeting, recalling a past working session in New Orleans, Louisianan, when (I believe) Barry McCabe was chairman. So, the third MHInitiative® caucus was postponed for the time being; to see what, if anything, materializes from the MHI meeting on 2/27/2012, actually 2/26 – 28. And, that’s where we are today, 2/19/2012, one week away from what could be a pivotal day in HUD Code manufactured housing history.

How and why pivotal? At least three salient reasons. First; the five month top salaried leadership position hiatus has apparently come to an end, with the hiring of Richard A. Jennison, as president and CEO of MHI..*1 Second; what proactive steps have been, and will yet be taken, by MHI in general, and its’ National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division in particular, to mitigate image and reputation damage to landlease communities nationwide, effected by a tenant activist’s testimony, on 2/1/2012, at the Congressional Hearing re the ‘Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000’? And thirdly, having just learned the industry experienced, in 2011, its’ third year in a row of only 50,000+/- new homes shipped (Down from 372,843 in 1998) – in the minds of some, if not many, direct, dues – paying members of the institute; what will MHI definitively do to address, ‘How to Save Our Industry?!’ If not at this meeting, when and where, if ever?

Frankly, the answers to the last two questions will serve as proverbial ‘handwriting on the wall’ indicators, relative to where and how our industry and asset class accesses the road to ‘survival & recovery’ as a viable source of new, affordable housing; or we continue on the now decade – long path of decline to worse….Possible alternatives?

For starters, when and where to convene the postponed MHInitiative® caucus. Already some are suggesting Chicago later this Spring or early Summer. It’s easy to travel to, is home to more landlease community portfolio owners/operators than any other city in the world, and is within easy driving distance from Elkhart, IN., the birthplace of manufactured housing! To ensure your name is on the list of 150 already committed to attend, or seriously desire to add your name to it, send contact information via gfa7156@aol.com, or phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633.4764.

And, as you likely know, there’ve been repeated calls of late, from other reaches of the industry, to realign and reorganize advocacy efforts in our nation’s capitol. Specifically, to see the HUD Cod home manufacturing/distribution (i.e. ‘company stores’) segments of the manufactured housing industry (i.e. Home manufacturers large and small!) finally unite, to move forward on their own. This leaves ‘everyone else’ to hopefully reconstitute, or if need be, form a new advocacy body, that’s either inclusive of ‘all other segments’ of the manufactured housing industry, including landlease community owners/operators; OR, see that real estate investment segment finally ‘come into its’ own’, and like the National Apartment Association and other similar advocacy bodies, focus on advancing the interests of member income – producing property types.

An important disclaimer! Other assertions to the contrary, I have NO desire or interest in heading or leading an existing or new national trade or asset class advocacy body! My oft stated goal is to at least semi – retire during the year or two ahead, to pursue other interests. My hope is this will occur via a new, national, not for profit, quasi – academic center for manufactured housing studies and affordable housing. If this does not materialize however, I have no intention of leaving my landlease community peers and colleagues in the lurch, by ‘pulling the plug’ on 30+ years of research and service on their behalf, via GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing. And if necessary, we’ll cross that bridge together, when we get to it. GFA

Now, harkening back to the title of this week’s blog posting, ‘Lest We Forget…’; where do YOU stand on these timely and key industry and organization – related issues? As is oft said, ‘Inquiring minds would like to know’, and this weekly blog posting, now reaching out to nearly 600 MHIndustry & LLCommunity businessmen and women, as well as elected and salaried leaders, is offering YOU this opportunity to share your thoughts, opinions, frustrations, and the like….Better yet, be in Arlington, VA., on 2/27 to participate in either ‘making history’ regarding our mutual business interests; or leave there understanding, once and for all, why we’re in the decade – long state of business malaise we’re in; and, unfortunately, will likely remain so, for some time to come. To register, phone (703) 558-0666.

End Note.

1. In part, quoted from MHI’s Press Release: Jennison comes to MHI from Omni Solutions Group (a.k.a. Omni SG), founded in 1995, and headquartered in Montgomery Village, MD. For the past couple years, he was partner and Senior Vice President for Marketing and Business Development, overseeing and managing the firm’s substantial not – for – profit ‘tech support & IT services’ business practice. For nearly eight years before joining Omni Solutions Group, Jennison was president and CEO of the Brick Industry Association (‘BIA’).

***

George Allen, CPM®Emeritus, MHM®Master
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 4624 (317) 346-7156

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