John Crean, Founder of Fleetwood Enterprises
MHInsider Legacy Award Winner
John Crean, the winner of the MHInsider Legacy Award (posthumously), founded Fleetwood Enterprises in 1951 and built it into one of the most successful manufacturers of RVs and mobile homes. Based in Orange County, Calif., Fleetwood by 1998 when Crean retired had become a Fortune 500 company at better than $3 billion in annual sales, manufacturing in 17 states and Canada. That year, Fleetwood sold more than 135,000 RVs and manufactured homes. Fleetwood built more than a million homes under the leadership of John Crean, who passed away in 2007. He was a veteran of the Navy and Merchant Marines.
Crean and his wife Donna gave generously within Orange County and elsewhere, including at times donating half of their annual earnings.
The 2020 MHInsider Industry Awards nominees for the Legacy Award were Jim Clayton, of Clayton, Art Decio, of Skyline Corp., and Chuck Fanaro of DWG Corp. The MHInsider Legacy Award honors manufactured housing professionals whose overall career contributions are certain to create meaningful and lasting industry improvement and excellence.
On John Crean’s Career
In 1965 Fleetwood had nine factories and less than a decade later the company was operating 70 plants. The company, at its height, was the largest manufactured home and RV maker in the world.
Observations from a Colleague
“John started off slow, making 10 floors a week and made sure it could be profitable that way, and then the growth began. There was no debt and very thoughtful growth with the operating profits on hand. John understood how to pace the business, and always was very generous to his employees, which is why he had a strong team. There was a good training program, and it ended up preparing a lot of people including those who went to other companies or started their own successfully, as well.”
– Gordon Collins, Fleetwood Marketing Executive and colleague of John Crean.
MHInsider Legacy Award Nominee Jim Clayton
Jim Clayton founded a mobile home retail center that would evolve into one of the largest homebuilding groups in the country, including a 42% stake in new manufactured home sales. The Knoxville-based company is a leading Tennessee employer that guides retail and homebuilding centers throughout the nation. Its leadership has been a central voice in advocacy for affordable housing, and its philanthropic efforts in housing, education, and the sciences have left an indelible mark. Clayton’s legacy is Clayton the company, but the founder has a story of his own. An author, and skilled guitar player, Clayton has performed at the Grand Ol Opry.
MHInsider Legacy Award Nominee Art Decio
Julius Decio founded Skyline in 1952 and by 1957 his son Art had taken the helm and would not only lead his father’s company into a top-selling mobile home and RV manufacturer, but the Decio influence would be central to the post-war development of Elkhart, Ind., into an RV and manufactured housing powerhouse. Art Decio grew Skyline to 25 companies with 3,500 employees in 12 states. He was featured in Time magazine in 1965 and served as president of the MHMA. The RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart denotes on his induction credentials that he “built his company from a small family organization to the largest home manufacturing company in the industry. A marketing pioneer responsible for many inroads to the acceptance of manufactured housing. Pioneered the regional production and marketing concept.”
MHInsider Legacy Award Nominee Chuck Fanaro
Chuck Fanaro of DWG Corporation changed the face of manufactured housing and community living in the late ’80s and early ’90s with the envisioning of and development and marketing for Saddlebrook Farms in Grayslake, Ill. He was a retired trader in his mid-50s who had resources and wanted to create an enterprise that would bring jobs, opportunity, and offer housing that buyers want and need. Saddlebrook Farms reimagined what community living could be. Fanaro bought Hi-Tech Housing, the Indiana factory that supplied his homes, so he could control the availability, as well as design and material choices that were otherwise unavailable. He chose enhanced interiors, but moreover used exterior elements like lap siding, installed garages, landscaping, driveways, sidewalks, and curb cuts in a way that brought on a new era in community development.
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