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Industry Feedback About the Manufactured Housing Institute, Image, Industry Hassles, and Advancement

by L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach

tony-kovach-2-50A very thoughtful message from a widely-known industry leader is quoted below.

It was sent in response to a recently produced finance-focused video.

That writer’s comments equaled a page and a half of text, so what follows is just a snippet from the message, a section that by itself won’t reveal the writer or what part of the industry that person is in. 

Words between the are edited out comments that could have tipped off who the writer was, here’s that pro’s spotlighted commentary.

I sincerely believe that our national association could skip past the ‘fact-finding portion’ of this [MHI] initiative and use the funds that would be spent on researching ‘the problem’ on an integrated public relations effort

to dispel the most common myths / misconceptions and stereotypes that:

1) keep buyers from considering the product,

2) discourage banks, credit unions and other lenders from financing the product, and

3) encourage cities and towns to restrict/prohibit the placement of our homes within their jurisdictions.”

The writer then said:

"This commentary IS NOT anti-MHI.."

The words on the end of the quote above should not be construed as negative or harsh towards MHProNews, because the letter begins, reads, and ends with thoughtful and encouraging words on our industry work, and generally interesting commentary.  Rather, it was simply the writer’s emphasis that the person isn’t attacking the association, they are QUESTIONING the wisdom of an MHI policy/program.

That last line - "This commentary IS NOT anti-MHI..- "is going to be a key jumping off point for me.

Because those words - "This commentary IS NOT anti-MHI.." – would be widely embraced by others or myself regarding public comments on issues that involve MHI. We’ve worked hard to focus on people at MHI acting in error, or policy errors, rather than attacking the organization per-se.

A properly functioning MHI, or something like it, is potentially valuable to the industry.

Much of what that writer stated, I’d also concur with; again, including that part quoted about not being anti-MHI.

Now, let’s dive into the three points the writer above wanted to focus on.

1) Buyers considering the product. 

  •  In our Inside MH Road Show series on MHLivingNews, we’ve done video interviews with actual home owners, and in a few occasions, those who had done their homework and had already decided to buy a manufactured home.  By NOT using actors, by NOT scripting those interviews, we end up with authentic insights.
  • That authenticity helps prospective viewers – home shoppers, housing professionals, lenders, public officials – to connect on a granular level with someone telling their story, in their words.
  • Let’s be candid, there are some we’ve interviewed who don’t come off as exciting on camera.  But that’s true of life in general, isn’t it?  For example, in one recent interview we a home owner says something that others may have found sad, thus negative and may have edited out. But to me, it was so authentic and was at the heart of what caused that lady to pick the MH Lifestyle. Her brief but heartfelt comments suggested the theme for the article that wraps the video.

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 2) Discourage banks, credit unions and other lenders from financing the product.  

  • Who better to dispel the concerns of a lender, then another lender who went before them on their journey of discovery? 

  • The video above – first posted at this link here and which drew the commentary this article is based upon - wasn’t the first or last time we’ve interviewed lenders whose company’s main focus isn’t manufactured housing.  The comments by such pro-MH lending professionals regarding their insights or experiences about the homes and their portfolio performance is thus potentially very powerful. 
  • My professional/personal experience is as follows. Lenders and other experts who take the time to truly get to know the product are amazed.  Do they have questions?  Yes.  Can they be addressed?  Clearly, yes.  See the video above, and the link in B above to learn more.

3) Encourage cities and towns [not] to restrict/prohibit the placement of our homes within their jurisdictions.

  •  Look at the interview with housing inspector Becki Jackson. Or consider the interview with Bill Matchneer. We’ve done interviews with realtors, site-builders and others, who once they grasped the manufactured home realities, they respected the product.

BeckiJacksonALHousingInspectorManufacturedHomeLivingNewsPostedMHProNews-

Is there more needed?  Yes, we think so, and you can bet that the anonymous letter writer noted above would too. 

For example, when a piece of seriously erroneous ‘news’ comes out, we set about crafting a story that corrects the record.

Manufactured home communities and crimes is just one example.

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Or when there are also the ‘positive facts’ that frankly, some have previously overlooked as a source for good news about manufactured housing, we want to bring those into focus too.

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Or when the industry members do or say positive things, we want to spotlight those efforts.

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Dozens of others examples like those above spotlight how we as an industry advance.  We can refute the bad facts with good ones.  We can synergistically spotlight good news stories.  Repeat both often, until the public fully gets it.

We as industry professionals must learn how to collaborate and work together cohesively at telling in ever-better and more compelling ways the truths about manufactured housing and our manufactured home communities. 

We even learn to tell that truth about our evolution from trailer houses, to mobile homes to manufactured homes, spotlighting past problems with current realities.

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We as publishers and service providers are pro-industry, and pro-association.  It’s very fair to say that the letter writer above quoted in brown, is too.

For that matter, Frank Rolfe is pro-association, but is vigorously QUESTIONING - for the good of the industry - MHI’s problematic approach to working with the media.

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Marty Lavin was in the MH association world for many years - and holds dearly an MHI award - but Lavin is QUESTIONING – as does Rolfe, the writer above and others - MHI’s communications and planned “study.”

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Be it they, or us in articles and editorials, we all share in this in common.  We’re raising concerns  for the sake of industry advancement.  The issues allegedly caused by top staffers at MHI will be addressed, one way or another.

The Alleged Jennison/Gooch (MHI senior staffers) and MHProNews “fued”

So, as publisher of MHProNews/MHLivingNews, I totally reject the notion that we are anti-MHI. Rather, we are pro-industry, pro-ethical, best- practices and pro-truth. When MHI is correct, great. When some there are in the wrong or fail to perform, they should be held accountable.

That’s life, and that’s pro-industry trade journalism.

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  • A) Thus, when someone at MHI has erred, fails to perform and keeps repeating their mistakes, that should be called into question, for the good of the association and the industry.
  • B) Instead of proving our first privately aired, later publicly shared concerns mistaken, the fact that Jennison/Gooch and their surrogates allegedly are lashing out behind the scenes is simply evidence proving they are mistaken – an effort to deflect, dodge and cover up rather than face the music - and they surely know it.  Rather than admit error and mend their ways, they would rather try to kill the messenger. In this case, that’s our pro-Industry trade media platforms…because it isn’t myself saying it, others linked and cited on this article have bravely been willing to go on the record with their concerns too.
  • C)If any leaders miss those realities, they need only look at their own business operations.  Do you keep someone in your business that proves repeatedly to screw up and won’t change their ways?
  • D) If elected association leaders continue to back those two, for whatever reason, then industry members have little choice to but to seek other options.  Frankly, we believe that MHI needs to look at what Kentucky’s state association reportedly did, reform their structure to reduce the power of the larger companies, which makes membership more attractive to independents.
  • E) The MH Industry opportunities are too great, and the inside road blocks too obvious, to ignore.  Who says?  How about Frank Rolfe, Marty Lavin, the anonymous writer above, Titus Dare and Tom Fath – among others who’ve said similarly off-the-record.

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I completely understand why many won’t speak out in public.  There are a variety of reasons.  But in America, silence doesn’t always mean consent.

Some don’t say a word about the problems, but rather, forge ahead with their pro-industry efforts. One such example is linked below.

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It should be noted again that when editorializing by me or anyone else
is published, such editorials may not represent the views of our sponsors. 
Sponsors are here in part because we have the largest industry audience.

The Road Ahead

The videos and articles fueled by the MH Alliance/Partners in Progress concept are so common sense, and it’s working for those who are fully engaged in the process. 

Because this works, and sparked by the video below – the anonymous writer above’s 3-point commentary above comes into play – as one of many examples of how this can and does work.

Beyond the MH Alliance/Partners in Progress

Beyond these examples are a crying need for national association leadership that is effective.  

The videos and stories that we do would be so much more impactful if a national association was collaborating with us, instead of working against us.

As another March 2017, Featured Article reveals, MHI has over a $3 million-dollar annual budget.  That’s roughly 6 to 7+ times the size of MHARR’s budget.  That’s not counting MHI’s PAC.

  • Is MHI’s leadership putting that money to its best possible use?
  • Are the best possible team members in place at MHI?
  • Are the leaders behind the national organization, truly open in their approach to input from others?  Or are they pushing an agenda that they prefer?

We won’t dive into a full SWOT analysis, because

a) we’re paid for SWOT analysis work,

b) as another article this month clearly states, those involved in the SWOT must want an objective view and are willing to act upon it, or the work is done in vain.

But we will note what our Daily Business News writing team of RC Williams and Matthew Silver periodically cover.  There are current and potential ‘threats’ to manufactured housing.  As MHARR has wisely said, we’re sitting on an historic opportunity. 

Will the industry take advantage of it?

MHARR, MHI and the States

Editorially, we’ve routinely understated MHARR in doing MHI Analysis, because some may misread or unwisely dismiss MHARR’s commentary without thinking it through.

That said, let me state for the record my professional view that MHARR has often been spot on with issues. Their viewpoint and concerns deserve a full and fair hearing, along side MHI’s and any others that are thoughtfully put forth. 

JimAyotteFMHAonMHARRmanufacturedhousingassociationforregulatoryreformOnRecord

And yes, those concerns raised by MHARR should be taken up impartially at MHI too. The same is true in reverse, each party should consider the perspectives of the other.  How else can consensus or compromise ever possibly be reached?

One more point about MHARR. Given their modest budget, MHARR does an amazing job of getting another thoughtful perspective out on industry issues and they do so rapidly. Imagine, what could MHARR be do if they had the larger national association budget?

We at MHProNews ask:

  • state association execs,
  • MHARR,
  • company leaders,
  • elected and appointed political figures for comments, and routinely get them, often within an hour or two of sending the request. 
  • Why does MHI’s top staffers so routinely refrain from commenting on issues that impact the industry?

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As we’ve carefully documented above and elsewhere numerous times, other pro-industry professionals – as well as our own operation’s team - are asking serious questions.

Because after years of MHI doing the same things, the same ways, industry pros are tired of getting the same results in D.C.

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Not changing in the face of repeated mistakes is the popular definition of insanity.

There are only a few possible logical options.

  1. MHI leaders should consider changing some team members, and reforming the organization – perhaps along the lines of the KMHI’s reforms.
  2. A new post-production association should be formed that represents the interests of those being sidelined or ignored at MHI.
  3. Perhaps MHARR would consider expanding their membership to include non-producers?
  4. Perhaps MHECC would consider expanding their role to supplant that of MHI, where MHI has repeatedly missed the mark?
  5. A strategic alliance could be forged with another umbrella group that is pro-business, such as the NFIB.

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In conclusion. More of the same?  Or time for a cool change? Each reader makes that decision, moment by moment and day by day.

 We Provide, You Decide.” ©  ##

(Where image credits aren’t show, they are produced/provided by MHLivingNews, MHProNews or our Graphic Stock collection. All other images are as shown, and are provided under fair use guidelines.)

latonyKovach-Louisville-2015-mhpronews-com-275x156-11By L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach.