The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association commissioned an Economic Impact Study on the RV industry, released on June 7, 2016. The study found that the RV industry contributes about $49.7 billion in economic output or 0.28 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Through its production and distribution linkages, the industry impacts firms in 426 of the 440 sectors of the United States economy.
Nationwide, the industry is responsible for 216,170 jobs, both directly and inderectly, creating an economic impact of $37.5 billion. The full study results, along with each individual state and congressional district's economic impact is available on the website by clicking here .
Thu Aug 18, 2016
In attempting to start a new business in the RV industry, it’s not enough to compete for the same market or produce similar trailers. To survive, a manufacturer must create its own niche in the industry.
Count TAXA, Inc./Cricket Trailers among them.
While Garrett Finney was living in Houston, Texas, working for NASA, he began to develop an idea for a camping trailer. Always the big camper, Finney wanted to see something built in the industry that would allow for him to camp comfortably but still experience all the wonders of nature for which camping was intended.
When what he was seeing never materialized, Finney decided he would take the initiative and make it himself.
That was six years ago. After endless drawings on napkins and getting the funding necessary for starting a small business in Houston, TAXA, Inc. was born.
In a couple of short months, the company will release its third trailer to the market.
“I’ve always been an outdoorsy person. The company was founded basically by saying that the RV industry makes houses on wheels and goes to great lengths to do it,” Finney says. “My company is interested in developing the very fertile ground of comfortable camping. When you talk to me, you’re talking to someone looking at the outdoor industry more than the RV industry for inspiration.”
That means that TAXA’s trailers aren’t equipped with the luxury items that most people would find in a normal RV. For example, the trailers don’t come with a microwave, carpeting of the plush flat screen TVs. Instead, Finney wanted to make sure that people had a safe, dry and warm place to get out of the rain, but still could experience camping as it was meant to be.
“All of our customers, if they are going to cook outside, they’re going to cook outside,” Finney says. “They want to be the right kind of dirty. A comfortable place to sleep to get out of the weather and a place to bring their paddle boards and kayaks. We are excited as we are finally at a scale that we have the distribution network and a good set of dealers and relationships with outdoorsy chains.”
One of those chains is the giant outdoors chain Recreation Equipment, Inc., commonly referred to as REI. Some of the warehouses have one of TAXA’s trailers sitting in as a display – the TigerMoth. The 12-foot-long trailer weighs just 900 pounds and includes a 48-inch slide-out drawer that holds the TAXA-designed kitchen box or allows for storage of long items, as well as a convertible couch/bed that sleeps two people comfortably.
The other trailer is called the Cricket Trailer, which was the first of the trailers the company produced. The name of both the company and the trailer is based on the insect, which Finney found inspiration from.
“The mechanism that opened the roof to a large angular exterior reminded me of a cricket,” Finney says. “It was a working title that turned into the actual name. Also, with crickets, they don’t bite anyone. They’re found in caves and they’re a friendly insect. TAXA comes from taxonomy, the classification of species and insects.”
There is a strong market for people who want to go deeper into the wilderness than something like a Type A motorhome would allow, pushing further than a campground with hookups, water and sewer lines and electricity. Instead, some people are looking for a small trailer that is the means of travel rather than just the end result. And the customer response has been resounding.
“It’s really gratifying to have an idea and put it out there and then realize that other people have been looking for that same idea and haven’t found it,” Finney says. “There really is a desire to downsize or right-size among a lot of people. I’m mostly excited that the nation is turning its attention that way. We like to think we’re in a different space than the competition. It’s interesting or alarming or exciting to note there are many more rooftop tents in the market now. Everyone has to get smaller in some sense. Now we have to keep growing and figure out more and more. We’re excited about the trajectory.”
The company will be releasing the Woolly Bear within the next two months. It will be seven feet long with three feet of hitch and will feature a field kitchen and field office and a cooler or 12-volt refrigerator drawer. There also will be storage space for two bikes, two kayaks and other outdoor recreation toys.
Finney took off in the Woolly Bear with his 14-year-old son recently and visited a few trade shows and outdoor recreation stores. To go from dreaming about a camper trailer that fit his wants and needs to actually building and selling them and finally, to take his son with him, makes him pause and reflect.
“It was really great to found a company about camping and then go camping with my son,” he says. “It was great to bond with him. Really, we’re a slightly askew company that happens to make RVs.”