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 Nov 3, 2017
Author: Scott Hansen
When Karen Barnett was in high school, she worked at her father's company, Valley Screen Process, and watched as her dad, Jerry Bauer, took the company from a small, six-employee business to a large supplier of customized screen graphics for the RV industry.
After she finished college, Barnett joined the company full-time in 1984. Ten years ago, Bauer passed away, but the company continued to thrive with his daughter now at the helm. Late in October, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary and there are still big things that Valley Screen sees on the horizon.
The company started in 1967 by Bauer and business partner Galen Heckber. The company started supplying the RV industry in the late '70s as motorhomes started to develop more colors and vinyl instead of just the painted bodies.
"At the time, RVs were painted, typically, and they didn't have a lot of graphics," Barnett says. "But vinyl adhesives became more prevalent and they developed and added more colors; 3M was a company that was instrumental in starting that whole market. We were a printer in South Bend at the time and we formed a partnership with 3M to print the logos and cut them out of the 3M vinyl. It became a natural progression for a company where a lot of RVs were being built."
Fifty years ago, the process of creating screens and graphics was wildly different than it is today. Dying and setting screens by hand is now a thing of the past. Valley Screen has embraced the latest state-of-the-art technology to attain its place at the forefront of innovation.
"We've introduced digital printing and we are now pretty heavily invested in high-speed equipment and digital-cutting and laser-cutting equipment," Barnett says. "We do very few things the old-fashioned way anymore. Most everything is electronic and digital."
When the recession hit in 2008 and 2009, Valley Screen Process was particularly hit hard, because when budgets become tight, customized graphics become a luxury item, deemed non-essential by RV buyers. Barnett faced the toughest challenge of her career: How could she navigate through the recession and steer the business when her father and founder Jerry, with all of his wisdom and leadership, had recently passed away on Valentine's Day 2007?
"We were heavily invested in the RV and marine industries and we all took a big hit," Barnett says. "We had to adapt and try to figure out what to do with capital equipment and talents. We diversified into two different markets—the fleet graphics and the architectural interior graphics."
To this day, Valley Screen is still heavily involved in both of those industries, completing interior architecture artwork projects for children's hospitals and exterior graphics on national fleet companies. Still, it has always kept its roots in the RV industry.
Barnett says the team at the Mishawaka, Indiana plant—now 60-employees strong—is the reason the company has been successful in the past 50 years, and the reason why she's confident the company will be successful in the many years to come as well.
"We have a great team of people here, willing to change and adapt and embrace new technology," she says. "They value their clients and they put excellent customer-service at the top of what we do."
On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Valley Screen hosted an open house for its clients, which brought in about 300 people. On Friday, Oct. 27, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) visited the plant. She gave the company the Half Century Award from the state of Indiana and read a proclamation entering the company into the congressional record.
The company also made a donation to the Christ Child Society, which provided clothing to 50 children in need in the area. That charity was chosen because it was a favorite non-profit of Barnett's parents, company founder Jerry Bauer and his wife and Karen's mother Carol.
Looking to the future, Valley Screen already has several innovative projects out there, to continue to diversify its product offerings to the RV market. These innovations include using their graphics and customized screens inside an RV unit, such as for backsplashes, cabinet inserts and custom artwork.
"We hope to continue that and make that a bigger part of what we do," Barnett says. "It's been a really great response so far."
The interior graphics are new for Valley Screen, something the company has entered into within the last 10 months. The ideas include creating a graphic that looks like tile, but is instead printed plastic and can be placed within a coach. The company also can make graphics look like marble or other customized interiors.
Every morning when Bauer was at the company, he would visit all of his employees with a bowl of candy and tell them a joke to start the morning. He would be interested in what was going on that day and was always encouraging of their progress, according to the company website.
Somewhere up above, Bauer is smiling at the progress of his company at the hands of his daughter and her team with a big bowl of candy.