Note: this isn’t a slam about the executives about to be named. Former Skyline Executive Terry Decio, well in advance of the Skyline Champion (SKY) ‘merger’ aptly bemoaned the lack of acceptance and understanding of the modern manufactured homes. Fast forward to Joseph “Joe” Stegmayer – former Cavco Industries (CVCO) Chairman and CEO – similarly said that manufactured housing is largely an untold story. Stegmayer’s statement was made while he was MHI’s chairman. One might observe that these prominent Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) members were in positions to do something positive about those concerns. But as noted, that is not the aim of this article. Rather, beyond wondering why they didn’t robustly act according to their own statements is the fact that each made a valid point. Manufactured housing has a powerful story to tell. One key question is, how can or should that potentially powerful story best be told?
MHI can be used as a point of reference. Note that the factual and evidence-based case can be made that regrettably MHI is in some ways an example of what not to do. Again, that’s not a slam in this context. Evidence considered objectively has value. But evidence only has practical value or lessons when considered objectively, the facts and outcomes are understood, and the lessons learned are applied.
Consider the facts that should help frame the message the public is perhaps unwittingly waiting – even hungry – to see, hear, and read. Some facts and evidence will help frame the issues that must be navigated.
A) It isn’t enough to merely show pretty pictures, fancy videos, or 3D virtual tours. The national manufactured housing production trends dropped steadily even as fine photos, websites, virtual tours and other tech kept going online. That’s not a slam, it’s a fact demonstrated by the first graphic below. If 3D tech and other visuals were enough, the industry would be over 500,000 new HUD Code manufactured homes, per the logic of MHI’s prior President and CEO Richard “Dick” Jennison.
B) The case can be made that Jennison’s target was too low. What high school, college, or professional coach tell their team in the pre-season that they want to finish dead last? Inspiration comes from aiming high. Millions of affordable housing units are needed in the U.S. Once upon a time, there were two producers that combined built more HUD Code manufactured homes as the entire industry does today. That’s a wakeup call.
C) The Roper research still has some value. When public sentiments about manufactured homes are largely negative, there has to be a close look at what drives those perceptions. Every profession has white and black hats. Common sense says you have to create a bright line distinction between your firm (presuming you are a white hat) and all others. Being the white hat will cause customers to buy from you than others: sometimes even if they have to pay a little more.
D) The case can be made that much of the public has to be convinced that manufactured homes are safe, a good value, durable, appealing, and something to be proud of instead of ashamed of if a shopper decides to buy. For those who have been face-to-face with manufactured home shoppers on a retail center, in a development, land-lease community, or trade show you already know the following. The prospect is there in many cases hoping to be convinced. But they – or a relative/friend-coworker, etc. – has serious concerns. Until those concerns are properly addressed, they won’t buy from you – even if they can save serious money.
Properly understood, almost everything that MHProNews/MHLivingNews does has been and continues to be aimed at the goal of getting to root causes of troubling issues. Perhaps it needs to be bluntly said. We are pro-growth. We are pro-consumer. We are pro-white had brands – or what one nonprofit aptly said was ‘manufactured homes done right.’
That means that we are against ripping off consumers or upending their value proposition by unjust and/or illegal means. Given the reality that the industry has a troubled reputation, there has to be a public response to those who engage in that bad behavior. While the name for specific source of the quote that follows is being withheld, this MHI affiliate was quite correct in saying that a good association should not be in the business of defending bad actors. It is no exaggeration to note that dozens of state executives can or should know who said this.
History matters in our industry and in all other walks of life. As a disclosure, this writer is not a fan of the politician who said the following. That said, his point about why history matters are spot on. “We study history in order to understand the present and to prepare for the future. Because anything that’s happened before can happen again.” – James “Jim” Clyburn (SC-D).
Manufactured housing arguably has the tools needed to forge a great story. But it ought to be clear that this effort will not come from the ‘insiders’ at MHI. The industry has endured about 2 decades of the “Berkshire Hathaway era” of manufactured housing. It has been the period of time that has had the weakest performance in the industry’s history as measured by production.
In speaking last week with a mainstream media publisher, during our conversation he noted that Warren Buffett and Sam Zell both had interests in mainstream media. Quite so. Why didn’t they use those platforms to properly promote the industry?
Most people, even so-called ‘black hats,’ are tempted to do the right thing. Fear, problematic habits, embarrassment, peer pressure and a range of psychology and sociology are at play in keeping black hats, well…acting in a dark fashion. Note that this is framed in the context of light vs. darkness, not race or ethnicity, which are neutral.
Sam Landy, J.D., president and CEO of UMH Properties (UMH) was correct in saying that at the end of the day every company is responsible for their own marketing. As someone who worked for retailers and communities that had multiple locations, the case could be made that each location can and should influence the traffic and messaging for their specific locale. Ironically, Darren Krolewski and his father B.J. Krol did a third-party report that praised this writer’s work for a multiple location community operation and how we improved resident satisfaction and manufactured home sales along with that satisfaction.
A freebie tip for growth in your market is this. RSS feeds can be set up at low or no cost. It is common sense that if you are a white hat brand, you would want to make a bright line distinction between your firm’s behavior and that of the industry’s black hats. RSS to MHLivingNews and/or MHProNews, or our new mainstream media press releases are all easy ways to get content that answers the concerns of savvy shoppers.
Don’t miss today’s related postscript.
With no further adieu, let’s press ahead to the headlines for the reports that professionals, public officials, advocates and others turn to for accurate information that cites sources, names names, and gives the commonsense analysis not found anywhere else in our profession. These qualities are what makes and keeps us number #1. Our thanks to all who make that statement possible and true. Here are those headlines for the week that was between 2.6.2022 and 2.13.2022 (Superbowl Sunday and the day before St. Valentine’s Day).
What’s New on MHLivingNews
What’s Recent from Washington, D.C. from MHARR
What’s Recent on the Masthead
What’s New on the Words of Wisdom by Tim Connor, CSP
What’s New on the Daily Business News on MHProNews
Manufactured Home Communities (a.k.a. ‘Mobile Home Parks’ – SIC) – Exploring UMH Properties; Fellow Manufactured Housing Institute Member Yes! Communities Suits and Settlements; plus MH Markets Updates
Manufactured Housing Builders Expect Rising Costs, Higher Interest Rates Will “Level Playing Field with Conventional Builders” per Texas Real Estate Research Center February 2022 Report; plus MH Markets Update
Infographic, Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Statements-2021 Manufactured Housing Data, Related Issues – plus Sunday Weekly MH Headlines Recap
Press Release to Mainstream Media from MHProNews/MHLivingNews in 2022
Numbers of times a year, MHProNews/MHLivingNews reach out to industry leaders for comments on our reports. Some such as the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform reply promptly and routinely on the record. In years gone by, so did MHI and their leaders. In more recent years, the case could be made that they have tried to make us ‘go away’ – and in a sense ‘childishly’ pretend that we don’t exist. Hah! The joke is on them, because they have ceded the ground for the debate of their own performance, or lack thereof. That said, MHProNews routinely accurately quotes them as warranted to show what they have said previously or recently and compare that to their behavior.
MHProNews began last year to reach out to non-manufactured housing media to get the true story of manufactured housing and our place in the battle for affordable homes into a broader audience. Some examples are linked below.
Beyond media releases, another such outreach event is going to be reported, likely tomorrow. Accountability will come, sooner or later, to those who have arguably deceptively mislead manufactured housing brands into the terrible underperformance of our industry in the Berkshire era. More on this, likely tomorrow.
The opportunities for our industries white hats are many and growing. While many of the black hats, per sources deemed reliable, are dedicated readers – they want to know what is being reported here about them and their allies – the white hats should increasingly take heart. White hats working for black hat brands, and white hats competing against dishonest and/or dishonorable brands should blow the whistle with evidence as others have. You can do so on or off the record.
Last but not least. Sign up in seconds for our industry leading x2 weekly emailed news updates, linked here. Click, enter your email, push submit. Confirm that email and you are done! Others are signing up, you should too.
MHProNews led the charge for industry recovery by cheerleading when the industry hit bottom in 2009 and 2010.
MHProNews led the charge for the return of the Louisville Manufactured Housing Show (more on trade shows soon) after the first time in decades that the show was cancelled.
MHProNews led the charge on image issues by launching MHLivingNews. There is no other resource online that tells the good news about our industry while exposing the black hat behavior that every honorable manufactured home professional should reject as best they can.
After over a dozen years, we still have the goal of honorable and sustainable growth. Stay tuned for the next phase of manufactured housing ‘leadership’ and related accountability.
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Our thanks to you, our sources, and sponsors for making and keeping us the runaway number one source for authentic “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
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.
This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.