I think around 2005 or so I was at the Wisconsin Association giving my latest Doom and Gloom prognosis for the future of our industry. (Actually my gloom was less than the future industry doom.) Amongst the many in the crowd was Tony Kovach (LATony to me), who took some exception to my pronouncements. He thought me wrong.
Tony was and is an industry booster of the first water, endlessly positive about the industry, the homes we build, the people in the industry, and its bright future. He could envision no malady of the type I forecast. To him the industry was just too needed for American housing to drop to the 49,000+ homes it ultimately did. And while I thought it would be bad, very bad, I did not believe shipments would drop as low as they did.
Tony recounted for me the same positive industry facts every time we spoke. I accused him of being a cheerleader and he always accused me as a half-empty glass kind of guy. Never mind that in 1998 my company originated $188 million of MH refinance loans. Surely that keeps a full glass outlook on one.
But 1998 was followed by 1999 which brought the first Hai-Karate face slap that things were in decline. What we didn’t recognize at the time was how much things had truly changed. This was not one of the frequent industry episodes so common to me since 1972, that you knew would come, make you drop your knickers, and then resolve itself, the industry regaining its footing at profitable levels. Not this time.
It took some time during this episode but by 2003 it was obvious to me, if not to everyone, we were in uncharted territory, with challenges ahead of the type unknown in the industry since its founding.
Since I first met Tony, much has happened. He and his family have become my good friends, I communicate with him frequently, and occasionally write or speak a piece for his publications, MHProNews and MHLivingNews. Spare no concern, the Lavin skepticism for the industry’s future has not infected LATony, he is an irrepressible industry booster.
He is the first to the battlements protecting the industry from unfounded and undeserved outside attack. He defends the industry from the regulatory overreach which unnecessarily hinders the industry, but more importantly, does harm to our client base, reducing their housing choices at a time when too few housing choices abound. That is tragic for all involved.
Tony has been quick to respond to these grievous conditions, leading the industry defense, in compliment at times with association(s) support and at times seemingly more effectively than the association(s). (Today the associations seem to have narrowed views, not necessarily spanning the interests of all its constituents.)
Ours is a small industry. It was far larger 20 years ago, but even then it was not large. At points during that time there were 3 or 4 industry publications covering industry matters. In my eyes the Manufactured Home Merchandiser was the pick of the litter, probably because both Tony and I were correspondents providing occasional pieces from us to further some industry topic we felt important.
With regrets, the Merchandiser went the way of the dinosaurs, industry activity so low that the magazine ownership finally tired of subsidizing its printing and mailing. Regrettably, Herb Tieder, the publisher, could not be talked into going with an internet e-magazine, and the end came, at which point the Merchandiser had become a brochure, no longer a magazine.
Interestingly, Tony decided that there was a gaping niche to be filled with an MH e-magazine and brought his considerable energies to bear in forming the aforementioned e-publications. Like all new ventures, it took huge effort, trial and error, and serious dedication to get these ezines off the ground. At the same time he was expanding his consulting business, keeping Tunica going and bringing the Louisville show back from the coffin. All very good stuff.
Let’s face it gang, without Tony’s industry magazines we are pretty short of an industry-wide vehicle for thoughts, alerts, discussions, interviews and news. Tony also is fearless in taking on matters which offend, interest or challenge him.
Further, he solicits a wide range of views on many topics from many sources. Don’t agree with Tony on a certain subject, which can happen? No way he withholds his pages from your thoughts. Tony and I frequently diverge on viewpoints. That has never been a problem. He solicits my views though he knows like two paths in the woods, we diverge.
Tony is a young man, his magazines just coming into maturity, with enormous promise as industry news and education vehicles. He is to be highly complimented for his industry leadership with his e-magazines. But more importantly, as I age along to oblivion, I feel fulfilled that my prized Merchandiser has a worthy successor. Most satisfying.
This Sunday, June 14, Tony reaches his 39th birthday. Assuming a long, healthy working life, we have many years to look forward to his innovative and interesting magazines. Thank you, Tony, from me and I think from many others in the industry. Well done!
P.S. For you low information types, this year is also the 39th birthday of the HUDCode. Happy Birthday to the two of you. ##
Marty Lavin, JD.
(Editor’s note: Tony Kovach passed 39 years some years ago, so that part is vintage Lavin humor, but the 14th of June – Flag Day – is indeed his birthday. And June 15th is indeed the 39th anniversary of the date that the first HUD Code manufactured home began on the MH production lines.)