July '18

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150 • RV PRO • July 2018 rv-pro.com B U S I N E S S Derald Bontrager Derald Bontrager was born into the RV industry. Jayco was a family-owned business for 48 years, started by his mother and father when he was 11 years old. He might have hesitated at the idea of taking over the family business at first, but it soon settled with him. "I went to college and had aspirations to do other things, but I somehow ended up back in the business," he says. "It's been 43 years now." Jayco was his first summer job in his high school years. During his college years, his job at the company involved loading RVs onto trucks for shipment around the country. From that point, Bontrager jokes, he couldn't ever hold a job. "I had 13 different positions in the company during my career. I touched most all the areas and really learned the busi- ness from all sides," he says. At only 27 years old, Bontrager lost his father in a tragic airplane accident. From that point, it was Al Yoder who served as president of Jayco for several years and mentored the still young Bontrager. He says he learned a lot about dealer relations and product from Yoder. Over the years, Bontrager says he's learned even more as he's watched an ever-evolving industry continue to grow, while staying focused on relationships. "Relationships are No. 1, and the people. There are just great people in this industry," he says. "Of course, we all know over 80 percent of the RVs are produced right here in Indiana. It's a small community, so of course you know most everyone in the industry, whether a supplier or a manufacturer. It's how we build our business at Jayco, by focusing on relationships and understanding at the same time we have to have great products and services." Part of forming and maintaining relationships meant volunteering his time to serve on industry associations, including several roles with the RV Industry Association, including chairman of the board. "RVIA plays a key role – and has played that role for many years – since the beginning. RVIA does a lot of work behind the scenes on local and state regulatory issues to keep the environment friendly for all of us to do business in," he says. "They also played a key role in what I call industry unity – pulling different segments together to work through issues," he says, adding, "We have to give back and stay involved to keep the industry viable and healthy for years to come." Outside of the industry, Bontrager has served in various capac- ities with civic groups and his church. "Jayco's such a prominent part of this community, and I believe in really getting involved in the community in the areas I have passion for," he says. "I hope I can make the community a better place for my kids and grandkids." W hile this year's RV/MH Hall of Fame inductees all left their mark on the industry through their indi- vidual and unique career contributions. Still, they shared a common trait – involvement in industry associations and giving back to their local communities. Also notable, while many of this year's honorees were practi- cally born into the industry, none of them have rested on their laurels or their family's successes. One of these individuals, Dan Pearson, has grown the family dealership his parents started in the 1950s from one location to five, and another, Derald Bontrager, has seen the former family business evolve into one of the best-known RV manufacturer brands in the industry. To be inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame is no small feat. To be so honored, inductees must be (or have been) an active participant in any segment of the RV, campground or manufactured housing industries for a minimum of 25 years, and they must have made notable contributions to the industry. This year's induction ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 6 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. with a cash bar cocktail party followed by dinner; the induction ceremonies start at 6:30 p.m. This year's inductees are: The 2018 RV/MH Hall of Fame inductees are as notable for their industry involvement and civic engagement as they are for their career accomplishments. By Darian Armer Photos courtesy of the RV/MH Hall of Fame Leaving Their Mark

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