If some industry professionals might believe that Kevin Clayton, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) owned Clayton Homes, could make a personal appearance at a municipal planning commission meeting, they would be correct. But the meeting attended last Thursday March 11, 2021 in Townsend, TN has no apparent direct connection with Clayton Homes, other than Kevin Clayton himself. Rather than appear somewhere to publicly advocate for a manufactured home industry cause – such as enhanced preemption under the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA or 2000 Reform law) that might benefit the entire manufactured home industry profession, Kevin made a personal pitch to the Townsend Planning Commission seeking approval for a plan for a distillery to sell spirits. That’s spirits as in alcohol. The classy brand name Kevin and his colleagues have in mind? “The Company Store,” says Andrew Jones writer for the The Daily Times (TDT).
Jim Clayton, Kevin, and Warren Buffett have a story they like to tell about how the buyout of Clayton Homes by Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) came to be. The fact that the story is disputed as purported window dressing was covered in the report linked below. That report and analysis includes a classic Buffett video on the topic.
With that in mind, perhaps the true or deeper meaning of “The Company Store” will surface or be confirmed at some point in time. But by accident, design, or ironically – that phrase “The Company Store” – is the refrain from a song performed by the late country, western, and gospel star John Cash called 16 Tons. That memorable lyric phrase said – “I owe my soul to the company store.” It was a sober reminder of dark days in several places in America when people ‘slaved’ away working for a company that they owed everything to, including, their “soul.”
“You load 16 tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
St. Peter don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store…”
MHInsider claimed that Kevin is working for the industry in a report previously examined at the link below.
Perhaps the meaning of “working for” is subject to interpretation? Kevin and his associates are fine with making a personal pitch to a planning commission for “a family” place that serves spirts where they would never allow someone to drink too much, said Kevin Clayton.
“Clayton was accompanied [to the Townsend Planning Commission meeting] by former Tennessee Distillers Guild President Kris Tatum, former Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett and Corey Clayton, Kevin Clayton’s nephew, all partners in the distillery venture, according to planning documents,” said Jones in his TDT report.
Kevin Clayton led Clayton Homes general counsel Tom Hodges is the chairman of the Manufactured Housing Institute. But does that mean that Clayton fights on zoning and placement issues? Or for more affordable manufactured home financing?
Kevin was personally with former HUD Secretary Ben Carson – shown in the photo below – during a tour of one of Berkshire’s Clayton branded production centers. Did Kevin ask Secretary Carson about enforcement of the “enhanced preemption” provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000? If so, there is no mention of it anywhere in mainstream media or by the Berkshire dominated Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). Why would that be? Isn’t Kevin working “for the industry?”
Is that how Kevin and his partners in the Company Store will work in Townsend too?
In a society where millions were tossed out of work they had perhaps a year ago, a place that serves spirits might be just the ticket for a Johnny Cash “16 Tons” type “Company Store” brand. But that is not how Kevin framed it.
“That will be a great home site for this brand,” Kevin Clayton said. “We’ll start construction there next year.” The brand that Clayton and his partners in “Tri Star” will refer to the firm as “Company Distilling.” Kevin’s narrative is that the name “Company” refers to “good company” and “gathering around” as opposed to the possible corporate association with the word. Someone familiar with the Clayton culture can almost imagine the rah rah that will go with that juxtaposition of phrases, right? “Gathering around” the “Company Store” for some good spirits to enjoy good company in “a family atmosphere!” Perhaps cheerleaders can be employed to make such a video promo?
“We totally tried to design this place around making sure it’s family friendly,” Kevin assured commissioners. For those in manufactured housing, that assurance should go a long way. “And I know it sounds odd we’d have spirits there, but that is what this new generation is comfortable with. We want people to drink in moderation. We do not want anybody to ever be there intoxicated, impaired to the point they’re not safe.” Uh huh. Yeah. Certainly would not want that liability, would ya, Kevin?
But how is this really going to work? Will the manufactured home industry experience shed some light for the city leaders and citizens of Townsend, TN?
Jones stated that “plans show there will be some alcohol production and a kitchen inside the business, the distillery also will include an outdoor area where people can relax, Clayton said. Most production will happen at the Alcoa location.” There was no need to say which Clayton, because readers in that area already know it is Kevin.
Given Clayton’s star power, while there are details to be worked out in the coming weeks and months, the Townsend Planning Commission apparently made it clear that they enthusiastically welcomed “Company Distilling” to their town.
Robert Kiyosaki says that the wealthy and billionaires work for assets. He describes an asset as anything that generates money, while a liability is anything that takes money out of your pocket.
With that in mind, The Daily Times (TDT) listed other businesses associated with the Clayton family in or near Townsend.
- Corey Clayton is managing the establishment of a bike trail on property near Little Arrow Outdoor Resort, while Jay Moore — Kevin Clayton’s brother-in-law — is the new owner of Smoky Mountain River Rat Tubing.
- A larger Clayton family-owned company named Salubrious Farms also bought Burger Master, where renovations are underway.
- Finally, Clayton during Thursday’s meeting said he was also talking with other parties about building a green-space park in Townsend, noting he may return to local officials with other plans in the near future.
Perhaps Townsend will rename the place Pottersville or Clayton-town someday?
A lampoon is a form of satire or “roast,” according to online dictionaries. As such, it is protected speech under whatever is left of the 1st Amendment. But some things can be both satirical, evidence-based, and thus insightful, right? Let’s give a visual snapshot of the wonders of Clayton and Buffettism, per several sources.
Perhaps if manufactured housing professionals think things through they will do themselves and the country a favor by coming to a similar conclusion that legal researcher Samuel Strommen at Knudson Law came to? Think SWOT.
Before more people in more professions get similarly impacted, perhaps the lessons of history will spark a chant of “break them up!” under antitrust and RICO laws?
Here is the tweet by TDT that links to their article.
Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton paid a visit Thursday to the Townsend Planning Commission, seeking site-plan approval for a distillery he and others want to establish in the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies” with an operational hub in Alcoa. https://t.co/j544E2XeEe
— DailyTimes (@DailyTimes) March 14, 2021
Townsend citizens and officials might want to consider the advice of attorney and manufactured home industry success story, Marty Lavin, J.D. Pay more attention to what people do than what they say, and of course, follow the money.
For those who want the inside scoop, just read what Clayton’s own team members have to say…
….see what those Clayton team members had to say and more in the linked reports that follow, as well as after the byline, or above.
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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