Rich Rice Answers Some Questions for MHInsider
Adventure Homes, based in Garrett, Ind., for four consecutive years has won the MHI award for Excellence In Manufactured Housing among manufacturers with fewer than three plants. The company is a privately owned, independent home builder with a strong following in the Great Lakes and Midwest regions.
General Manager Rich Rice recently took some time to chat about the business.
What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge on the sales or consumer side is the availability to finance. On the production side, it’s employment. It’s been very difficult to find and retain qualified employees. There’s a tie-in with states and their TARP money, which is money given to the states to help people keep their homes.
There’s a circle here. Housing is a primary roadblock in stabilizing the workforce. So we need more stable housing to stabilize the workforce, especially when the unemployment rate is at a historic low. Yet, we need employees to help make homes.
What are you most optimistic about?
The No. 1 question at this year’s Louisville Show is where I think this market is going. With modular, manufactured retail, manufactured for communities… My answer was, “Let me walk you through our houses”, because you have to have the product that’s needed in the market no matter where the demand is. The market is going to take care of itself… it just depends on what happens with what kind of financing becomes available, and where the buying and selling occurs.
We have product available in all spectrums, from a low-end rental that can go to a community to a larger sectional HUD home that can go into a new development. We listen to the customer and we’re going to design for what we’re hearing.
What are the greatest obstacles to building manufactured homes?
The key is in the materials and government oversight. With the government getting involved with the tariffs on China, we know the hard material costs are going to change. Now, we can always pay more, even if it hurts. But if at some point you can’t get the supply of materials at all, that will shut down a line.
What major trends do you see coming for MH manufacturers?
The increase of people participating in trade shows and conferences is something that will make a big difference. I don’t think people go to industry events like this and go back home intending to operate in the same way. Professionals from all parts of the industry are taking notice in ways I’ve not seen. They really want and need to stay ahead. They can’t go back home and say, “I’m just going to keep making single-section homes”. It’s very hard to operate that way any longer.
What advice would you give retailers selling manufactured homes?
I’m unsure I’d want to define this as advice, but I will say that it shouldn’t matter whether you run one plant or 90, you need to let your production be focused on what the customer wants. You cannot sit in a boardroom with a designer and product development people and expect to make a home that will sell the way you want.