A Cup (err...glass) of Beer with...Barry Cole
1) Who, What and Where (Your name, formal title in your company and where you are based).
Barry Cole, Manufactured Housing Insurance Services (MHIS) Orange, California.
Note to readers, this is a flashback interview, and other than this red text, it is as originally published
2) Background: (Educational/Professional snapshot before entering the factory-built housing arena).
Surfer, aspiring TV actor turned Navy veteran before entering MH. Some of the shows I was in included:
The Man from Uncle,
Bob Hope Chrysler Presents,
The Time Tunnel,
Please Don't Eat the Daisies,
The Outsider, plus some flicks.
3) When and How: (When and how you began in Manufactured Housing).
I began selling mobile homes in Compton, CA in the early 70’s during the time when President Nixon addressed affordable housing.
In 1970, President Richard Nixon’s annual address to Congress, “For many moderate-income American families,” Richard Nixon acknowledged, “the mobile home is the only kind of housing they can afford” - the future of low-income housing.
Nixon asked Congress to start funding hundreds of thousands of dollars for development. During that period, parks were being built all over California, consumers embraced the lifestyle, over sixty manufacturers were thriving, hundreds of display dealers were buying Cadillacs and the grand Dodger Stadium Manufactured Home show was an extravaganza with the great Art Linkletter as our spokesperson.
It was a pretty good arrival time to the mobile home business in California. Okay, enough of that “Hollywood” Tony - let’s talk about the RV/MH Hall of Fame!
4) You spent a number of years working with and then becoming the Chairman of the RV/MH Hall of Fame (HOF). Give us a snapshot of that history, please.
I truly believe our industry deserves a great Hall of Fame, and that we have.
Why a Hall of Fame?
I was out with a Manufactured Housing group one evening a couple of years ago and Tim Williams (21st Mortgage) went on the internet to see if other industries were proud of their heritages and if they had their own Hall of Fames.
The interesting group of leaders at the table were amazed to know how many large to small industries have some type of HalI of Fame. The difference is that our “Taj MH Hall” is one of the best in the world.
Besides the beauty of the building, the pristine display units and historical educational library, this enchanted housing and RV stroll through paradise is breathtaking. Every single person in the MH industry should visit and be proud of our Hall and they should especially be proud of the profession they chose.
Some have told me that they don’t give a damn about a Hall of Fame and only care about their weekly pay check. That is their prerogative, but the Hall’s leaders, legends, volunteers, friends and supporters are very proud of what they do for a living and all of the accomplishments they have achieved in the MH industry; demonstrating their gratitude by having this incredible capitol home-base honoring themselves, past and future inductees and all of the traditions that go along with it.
Ten years ago, I was asked to join the Hall’s board for a two year term. It was an exciting period of time being part of the proud pioneers who love the business they live every day. The goal was to construct a new 85,000 sq. ft. museum on forty acres by the highway to house rare MH and RV units, a library, theater and conference center.
Barry Cole, far right.
Just holding that gold shovel on groundbreaking day and knowing that the pledges to pay for the building were solidly committed to produce the incredible dream without debt was very overwhelming.
Well, unfortunately that glow did not last long.
Only seven of the twelve million dollars pledged were received as the recession turned evil and we were five million plus in debt. Times were bleak for a while.
We held on to most of the board members and brought in a couple of new thoroughbreds. Then, one of the returning MH board members Jim Scoular, with great strategy, convinced a retired RV board member, the passionate workaholic Darryl Searer to return to the Hall as President and through our many press releases, you know the rest of that story.
The Hall is doing fine financially and is on the right path.
Presently, the building and collection debt combined is only two and a half million and all bills are paid on time. Our event center is again booked and booming, the visitor attendance is incredibly huge and the total atmosphere is absolutely positive.
During this coming year the Hall of Fame is setting a new aggressive five year goal to pay off the collection and building, thus finally being completely debt free. This program is in talks with many positive leaders within our industry and after completion of the final pay off plan; you will be advised as to the program and what is transpiring.
Last year, the million dollar bank note was paid off and when we achieve our total debt free goal and honor our four year old by-law policy to never borrow again, the Hall will prevail to eternity and we will never have to beg for donations. So until then, I beg. Please donate, sponsor or just come to Elkhart to have a blast. Hollywood, your readers should go to their computer, tablet or smart phone and register for the RV/MH Hall of Fame induction dinner at rvmhhalloffame.org.
5) Fairmont Homes provided a model last year for the Hall. This increased the visibility for them and thus for the industry. Word has it that they've sold homes because of that model, and of course it has been good for the industry. With new capital and investors looking to place potentially billions of dollars into manufactured housing in the next year or two, don't you think this is a good time for the industry to enhance its visibility at the Hall? And hasn't the RV industry successfully used the HOF for advancing its image too?
The traffic and reviews of the Fairmont Display Model at the Hall is incredible. The model has helped sales for all retailers in the area.
Photo and related article from ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com
All visitors from out of town are incredibly surprised at how perfect the Fairmont home’s designs and amenities are and tell us that they will look up a local retailer when they return home.
This is part of what Adam Cobane (Fairmont Dealer) wrote to the Hall - “Silver Creek Homes is representing Fairmont Homes and this last year we became Fairmont Homes number #1 location in the United States. We do atribute the model home to our success. We do know in the last year our business is up 150% and we currently have 29 homes in construction. Based on the appearance and how the home is displayed at the RV HOF, we know we are continuing to "change the perception" of our industry.”
The RV side usually has some type of show or event ongoing at the Hall. The MH side needs to have parity with the RV side in reference to fundraising and participation at the Hall. As business improves, all local sectors of the MH divisions should participate similar to the RV side by having small symposiums, large conventions and display model shows, then continually attend the annual induction dinner.
6) Do you see an opportunity for videos and other forms of story telling to be used at the Hall that could enhance the understanding and appreciation of manufactured housing for those who visit?
Yes. Bring it on.
We would ask the manufacturers and other divisions to send interesting and informative manufactured housing industry videos (not home pets playing) and when approved, the movies will be shown nonstop at our first class theater during visiting hours. Joe Stegmeyer is sending a nationally televised show to the Hall as we speak.
9) Any closing thoughts you'd like to share with our readers about the industry in general or your place in it? .
“Hollywood” Tony - fifteen years ago, sixty five percent of MHIS’s new insured customer business in the western states were on private property and the balance in land lease communities. Today, MHIS’s new land/home insured business is only five percent, another five percent is on new incubated spaces in land leased communities and ninety percent are seasoned resales in land leased communities.
Unfortunately, development of new parks stopped years ago as it was too difficult and expensive.
Notwithstanding, a savior like tricky Dicky will arrive again and announce great opportunities by connecting non-profits with local jurisdictions and redevelopment affordable housing agencies who would grant their city land for free, discontinue fees, stop all regulations with no bureaucracy, then watch the growth of affordable manufactured housing communities having ninety nine year leases capped yearly at less than three percent, managed by the profitable, non-profits which in turn, will keep home owners values secure and create reasonable service profits for generations to come.
If you have read this far, go to rvmhhalloffame.org to just view the RV/MH web-site or register for our annual gala event on August 4th.
I’m just getting started. Next time, over another cup of beer we can discuss the industries identity and image, weeding out the crooks (not Richard Nixon), manufacturers acquiring the generational dealers, the negative press publicizing community owners who punch old women etc., etc., etc..
Finally, congratulations to the hang-tough recession survivors as they will be rewarded soon, since the MH business is now improving and about ready to bust out again, just like the good old days.
I did not research the Congress speech but I previously read the above Richard Nixon’s quotes and found them again from page 19 and 23 on the download linked here. ##