More than 80 RV industry players will fly in to D.C. for Committee Week on June 4 through 8, and push for the RV industry in an RVIA-hosted event known as Advocacy Day.
“What’s so great is that this is the one event where the entire RV industry comes together and speaks to Congress with one voice,” said Monika Geraci, RVIA’s senior manager of strategic policy and communications.
The event has become her “baby.”
While Advocacy Day has been happening for 16 years, Geraci joined five years ago. Under her guidance, the event has grown rapidly in the past two years, jumping from 36 people in 2014 to 95 this year. “It’s partly due to RVIA taking a leadership role in the industry. Two years ago, we reached out to other associations like RVDA and (campground associations) to really make this an industry event,” she said. “We’re really trying to widen the map and level of (congressional) influence.”
A significant reach is already in place. This year, attendees will meet with representatives from 36 states. By including dealers and campground supervisors, RVIA has been able to show Congress the impact of the industry. Next week attendees will show data from over the past 18 months.
Since 2015, according to the “RVs Move America” study, RV production has seen an increase of 15 percent with economic output of $50 billion. This has led to the creation of 290,000 jobs and $16 billion in wages. There’s an estimated total of 23,000 RV-related businesses in the U.S.
“There are a couple things that have come together to make a good perfect storm,” said Geraci. “More focus on federal activity in general whereas traditionally we were focused on the states.”
The biggest impact came at last year’s Advocacy Day when the RVIA showed politicians the original release of the “RVs Move America” study, proving the economic impact of the RV industry. RVIA took the study’s numbers to Congress. “We were able to say, ‘Here is the impact we actually have in your district.’ ”
Having those tools on hand, she said, has “really elevated” Advocacy Day.
The House RV caucus began three years ago, and the Senate RV caucus, two years ago.
“That’s our bench of champions,” said Geraci. “They’re the ones that can drive those industry talking points. A big part of the Advocacy Day visit is to encourage congress members to join the caucuses, and with equal importance thank them for the work they’ve done thus far.”
Members of the RV caucuses work together with their RV constituents, the people who create jobs in their district or state, said Geraci. “It’s a different ball game. … It’s one thing to say it’s a $50 billion industry, it’s another to say (they) can’t even find enough workers because we’re making such great, American jobs. … Here’s what we’re doing for you.”
Figures on a piece of paper don’t speak as loudly as face-to-face interaction.
A large part of Advocacy Day will address a very curious statistic beguiling the industry. While RV shipments have increased from 100,000 in 1980 to 430,00 as of 2016, overnight stays at national parks have nose-dived. Those stays go from 4.5 million in 1980 to 2.5 million (2016). Further investigation shows it’s not truly confounding. Campgrounds are due for some renovation.
RVIA is asking Congress to support a recreation title in all infrastructure bills. President Trump is set to have a substantial infrastructure bill, possibly to the tune of trillions of dollars. RVIA wants to have a recreation title in the bill that supports infrastructure spending on improving federal campgrounds and access to lands – including having broadband support. Many in the RV industry would also like to see barriers to public-private partnerships removed to allow outside investments.
This marks the third year hosting an RV caucus reception to cap off the day. At 5:30 p.m. EDT on Wed. June 7, everyone will meet in the Rayburn House Office foyer for picnic assortment of foods, including a campground-style Rolla Roaster forks thank-you gift. RVIA is still remembered, as one congressman emphatically mentioned, for its “s’more sticks!”