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 .
Fri Mar 10, 2017
In 1987, Greg and Deb Holder started a company in Springfield, Oregon working on a variety of off-grid solar powered projects.
Greg Holder had studied the design of self-reliant communities in college and had several ideas about renewable energy projects that he wanted to see come to life. The company he created was called Alternate Means and the business was successful in working with vacation cabins, a monastery and especially recreational vehicles, after the Holders had recognized the potential of that market.
“He’s always thinking about green energy and sustainable lifestyles,” the company’s President Garret Towne says. “In college they even let him design his own degree program where he was able to explore the concepts that eventually led him to develop a successful business in a very unique niche of the RV industry.”
A little later, the company acquired a charge controller business called Heliotrope PV, which got the company in the door of many of the RV manufacturers. In 2002, Greg and Deb Holder formed AM Solar to focus strictly on recreational vehicles.
After the new company was created, it hired its first employee who eventually became an owner – Aldan O’Daol, a native of the island of Kosrea in Micronesia, who currently works for AM Solar with two of his brothers as the Senior Installer and Quality Control Manager.
“Aldan probably has more experience working on RV power systems than anybody in the world,” Towne says.
After a few more hires and years, the company moved into its current location in Springfield, a two-story office building that features two installation bays.
In 2015, Towne had been working for a local solar company for four years that supplied AM Solar and got to know the Holders through frequent interactions. He had heard that they were looking for a way to retire. At the same time, Towne had become frustrated with his current job.
“I saw a thriving business that had a lot of potential. Greg was wanting a way out of the business and I was wanting a way out of my current job,” Towne says. “I was going on a coast trip one weekend and I passed a lot of RVs on the drive. I got the idea to email Greg. I received several emails back throughout that weekend about taking over as the General Manager of AM Solar and I started my new job that Wednesday.”
In the following months, the Holders, along with the employees at AM Solar, worked together to structure an employee stock buyout. As of Jan. 1, 2016, AM Solar had seven new owners and the Holders were officially retired.
Being employee-owned brings a lot of advantages to the workplace culture and the direction of the business, Towne says.
“Everyone feels tied to the success of the company,” he said. “We have an egalitarian structure with the goals of treating customers right, having fun and turning a profit, in that order. As a result, everyone is passionate about their work because they can see the daily impact that it creates. It has inspired the extra study on new technologies like our state of the art lithium battery systems and creates incredible team loyalty.”
“It is a laid-back, comfortable work environment that is totally self-directed and very efficient.”
One of AM Solar’s proprietary technologies is their tilting roof mounts, which Towne says no one else has anything quite like it. Another innovation is the roof mount combiner box with custom designed, UV resistant, 10-gauge roof cable. The AM Solar combiner box and roof cable system protects the integrity of RV roofs and keeps moisture away from the electrical connections.
“Beyond that, we offer kits that include all the components a do-it yourself installer would need to successfully complete a system to AM Solar quality standards.” Towne says. “Future innovations include a proprietary control chip that will regulate all loads and charging sources in lithium battery systems to reduce system complexity and installation time.”
As the company has recently passed the 1-year mark for being completely employee-owned, it is moving forward with a new spring in its step to create unique and efficient solar energy solutions for the RV industry.