Larger companies in our industry or others develop media contacts. There are numerous reports on mainstream and other websites that confirm that statement. Larger firms get into the news in a variety of ways. Some are ‘legitimate’ news that develop apart from such company-media contacts. But there are also those news stories that originate or are fueled by chummy connections between media and companies.
Similar things happen in politics or other professions.
Additionally, in the case of Clayton Homes, the firm is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire has their own BH Media group, comprised of dozens of different newspapers in various parts of the U.S. Google, Bing, or Yahoo news feeds pick up the stories from even a weekly newspaper just as readily as they do a large-city daily, or a national news publications.
Apart from BH Media Group, Warren Buffett can have a meal and make the news, if he so desires. Yahoo, CNBC, an array of financial publishers, and others in media closely follow Buffett’s statements. They routinely report on his musings on stocks, politics, the economy, as well as on business sectors – including manufactured housing – that Berkshire is involved in.
Summing the above up, there are a variety of ways that Clayton Homes can get in the news. They have numerous ways of getting manufactured housing in the news. If there is an issue that Clayton wants to highlight, there is ample evidence that they can do so. The proof? It is as simple as going to Google, typing “Clayton Homes,” selecting the news tab, and hitting enter to start the search. There are pages and pages of news reports about Clayton Homes from 2019 alone. The screen capture below is from page 8 of Google’s search. It shows, among others, a report about Clayton acquiring a site builder in Lakeland, FL and also the now infamous Last Week Tonight with John Oliver viral video errantly dubbed “Mobile Homes” as reported by Time.
Over the years, Clayton Homes dwarfs the news results for the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), which they reportedly dominate via the executive committee and through their dues.
Note the two news searches, above and below.
Mindful that a company like Clayton has any number of ways to get into the news, the following test is revealing. Type “Clayton Homes” in quotes and “enhanced preemption” in quotes into a Google search under the news tab, and what do you find?
An organization like MHI can also get into the news, as is noted. So let’s do a similar test. Type “Manufactured Housing Institute” and “enhanced preemption” into a news search. On Google this morning what was the result?
Nothing. Nadda. Zippo.
By contrast, MHI has desired to make the point that they are working to promote the “Duty to Serve” manufactured housing as is mandated by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2000. Are there results for a search for that in mainstream news? Yes, several, as the screen capture below reflects.
What does these factoids signify? What makes it significant? Several things.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson has said on national news that he wants to see local jurisdictions to accept manufactured homes. Dr. Carson said that is an important part of his prescription for a stronger America.
Weeks after the Innovations in Housing Showcase, Secretary Carson was still bringing up manufactured housing at events without MHI present.
Accepting at face value that Dr. Carson wants to see a greater use of manufactured homes, if Secretary Carson is fully informed about the “enhanced preemption” provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000, then it would be a simple matter of enforcing a law that already exists. That leads some possibilities, including the notion that Secretary Carson has been kept in the dark on enhanced preemption.
MHI has had several face-to-face meetings with Secretary Carson. He has spoken at two MHI events. If having enhanced preemption and the rest of the MHIA of 2000 fully enforce a priority of MHI’s, as they have recently claimed to their members, then they have an unusual way of demonstrating it in practical terms.
The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) is a producers trade group, not a post-production trade group. MHI claims to represent all segments – production and post production – of manufactured housing. MHI has a fulltime media relations professional on staff, and has for several years. With a fraction of the staff and budget, MHARR has numerous references on their website to this same topic.
After MHARR announced that they were going to press the issue of zoning, placement, and enhanced preemption, and after months of repeated references by MHProNews and MHLivingNews to the topic, MHI finally pivoted.
That fits the pattern they have followed on their arguably equally problematic initial position on the Department of Energy (DOE) rule on manufactured home, or their foot-dragging on Pam Danner, J.D., at HUD and the harm that numbers of manufactured home professionals from border-to-border felt Danner was causing them during her tenure as the administrator of the Office of Manufactured Housing Programs (OMHP). So given the disparity between MHI resources and MHARR, or the fact that MHARR has no media relations professional – since they are not a post-production trade group – and MHI does, why is it that the Washington Post reported that it was MHARR that pushed for Danner’s removal, while MHI did not?
Manufactured housing professionals for years have complained about zoning and placement issues and the lost business opportunities. The trend of limiting or banning the placement of manufactured homes has reached an even more serious phase, with cities attempting to or actually passing partial or complete bans on even new HUD Code manufactured homes. Yet in two cases that MHProNews contacted local officials, via a series of emails, our publisher was able to get two cities to reverse course. Part of that contact involved citing the federal law under enhanced preemption.
Yet MHI didn’t even contact those cities, per local sources. Nor did MHI contact Bryan, TX where there were boots on the ground trying to stop local officials from passing a manufactured home ban.
There are sobering implications from the pattern these facts point to, because they beg the question. If MHI and Clayton are serious about expanding manufactured housing sales at this time, then why aren’t they strongly promoting in media, and on their own websites, enhanced preemption?
What is the possible motivation for such a failure? Per informed sources, consolidation of the industry is continuing due to a combination of factors, including the negative news that flows from such bans. That reduces the value of existing businesses. Is it a coincidence that buying businesses in industries that Buffett likes is part of his ‘value investing’ mantra?
Paraphrasing the famous line, ‘Oh, what a tangled web some weave, when first they practice to deceive.’
To learn more about other political topics and how that impacts manufactured housing, see the related reports beyond the byline and notices on this chapter of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing,,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
Soheyla is a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. Connect with us on LinkedIn here and here.
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