The traditional golden rule is, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” (Mt. &;12, Lk. 6:31)
The new secular golden rule goes like this. “Cash is king,” so “he who has the gold, rules.”
Knowledge is potential power.
The reason thousands of manufactured housing industry owners, executives, managers, rank and file attend industry meetings and events is precisely to gain knowledge. Properly understood and applied, knowledge can lead to profits through implementation of what’s learned.
While there are no known statistics, arguably the largest percentage of the manufactured home (MH) industry’s non-corporate meetings are organized by state and community trade associations.
Those state or regional associations are widely seen as the front-lines of the industry’s collective efforts to protect, educate, and promote (P.E.P.) the industry with elected and appointed officials.
As award-winning industry veterans – such as Bob Crawford of Dick Moore Housing – have told the Daily Business News, those state trade groups are often far more effective at getting things done than the national umbrella group, the Arlington, VA based Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) has been in recent years.
Preserving Access ‘Strong-arm Tactics,’ Evidence of Monopolistic Power?
In the wake of recent reports, sources tell MHProNews about a conference call between then Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) VP Jason Boehlert, state association executive directors, and 21st Mortgage President and CEO, Tim Williams.
Boehlert had complained that “state execs” were not giving the level of support they needed to move Congressional representatives to support the then-new Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act.
So, on a conference call arranged by Boehlert with state executives, the MHI VP made a brief introduction, and then Tim Williams, President and CEO of 21st Mortgage Corp took the lead on the call.
Per sources, Williams reminded each of the states that his company was a member of their associations.
If they failed to get on board with lining up congressional support for their Preserving Access bill, Williams would pull 21st’s support from their association.
‘It’s not the amount that 21st pays directly,’ one source told the Daily Business News.
‘Finance company member dues are fairly modest in most states. A far greater amount is paid by 21st to numerous states to co-sponsor their annual meeting.’
But those co-sponsor dollars could also be replaced with some efforts, a source stated.
The bigger threat is if Clayton Homes would follow 21st’s lead.
If 21st pulled their support from a trade group, then Clayton could be next. If Clayton and other Berkshire Hathaway owned manufactured housing operations pulled their dues from state associations, that could put the existence of most any of them into jeopardy.
“It was a power play,” to force executives to follow Boehlert’s – meaning MHI’s lead.
It’s a clear sign of the practical ways how the Berkshire Hathaway “monopolistic hold” over the industry operates, sources said.
And all that on an issue that Boehlert said in writing was unlikely to pass.
Was it in part a head fake?
To create an impression of action on an issue that Berkshire Hathaway would win on, regardless if the bill ever passes or not?
Money is Power
A number of states, per association execs to MHProNews, have fifty percent or more of their dues revenues from Berkshire Hathaway brands.
In the case of Preserving Access, that bill’s points-and-fees provision, per opponents, primarily benefited 21st and Vanderbilt Mortgage. Yet, it would take center stage as the industry’s lobbying by MHI in Washington, D.C., and the respective district congressional, or senatorial offices.
“I’m not sure that Preserving Access should be an issue at all in the Trump Administration,” as association source said, because “The new administration wants to do away with the CFPB altogether.”
“State execs have their hands full with state-level lobbying, as well as zoning and related challenges,” an exec told MHProNews.“But we were given no choice.”
In the light of those insights, MHI and their new government relations SVP, Leslie Gooch, Ph.D., are now treating state execs as their “boots on the ground,” as MHI’s unpaid front line.
That, some veteran execs privately said, was never supposed to be the MHI relationship model between the national and state associations.
Flash Forward Communications to the Industry from Associations
While there are state associations that provide insights and comments to MHProNews, others – per sources – are being intimidated into silence.
“They [MHI] have sent the message in several ways, including their copyright statement at the end of their emailed messages.” Those copyright statements were not their a few years ago. Sources inside MHI and observers outside believe that was an effort by them to control the narrative around issues they wanted to mobilize industry support.
Another association executive went further, describing how he was directly contacted by MHI’s General Counsel, Rick Robinson, as part of a discussion on how to “stop the leaks” of MHI information going to MHProNews.
‘Forwarding an MHI email’ to the Daily Business News is being seen by MHI as ‘leaking’ information.
But other execs, while remaining more low profile on how they share insights, continue to do so. As an upcoming Masthead post will soon spotlight, a pair of state associations have withdrawn from MHI, as frustration with the Arlington-based association is growing. Those not financially bound by Berkshire Hathaway are exploring other options.
“I don’t have to necessarily agree with what you publish,” said one source to the Daily Business News, ‘to believe there is value to having multiple sources of information and insights for our members and others.’
Rephrasing, they don’t want to see the Berkshire Hathaway dominated MHI be the only source for industry news. While there are bloggers and others who do ‘newsletters’ or commentary, they often mimic the MHI ‘party line.’
As Richard ‘Dick’ Jennison dramatically demonstrated in Louisville last week, MHI and their powers-that-be clearly don’t want to be fact checked.
The reports came in the wake of the Kevin Clayton video interview and related reports about Berkshire Hathaway muscle over the industry at large.
The remaining state association execs may or may not agree with the MHI/Berkshire Hathaway agenda.
But if they like their jobs, most will be supportive publicly – even if they keep silent or neutral privately – on issues related to their lobbying agenda, or Berkshire Hathaway, sources tell MHProNews.
As more than one association source has said, it is yet another confirmation that the MHI system is rigged against independents, and smaller players.
Yet, MHI is still boldly asking for dues from independents, who are arguably being harmed by MHI’s failed agenda.
The Manufactured Housing Institute has finally provided a series of written responses to concerns raised by a number of industry members. MHI did so to via an email to their members, as they ask them to renew their annual membership dues. Let’s make this hyper-simple.
One more point was made by an association leader, which is ‘the good’ that MHI does bring to their table.
‘They do give us emailed reports on local issues through a third-party service they [MHI] subscribe to. It’s helpful, and in the case of our state, we couldn’t afford to do it on our own.’
So, there are carrots and sticks between MHI and the various state and community associations.
‘Until someone creates a new national association that does the good stuff that MHI does, and avoids the bad,’ an executive told the Daily Business News, ‘expect that the states will have no choice but to continue to do what they are told.’
These reported insights tends to confirm previous allegations involving MHI and Berkshire Hathaway manufactured housing industry brands.
So, while state or community associations are reliable on their state’s or regional jurisdictional issues, when it comes to MHI related topics, expect that content to be “weaponized.”
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Submitted by Soheyla Kovach to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.com.