Is the RV Industry Headed for a Slowdown?

There is a little known fact about the RV sector that the rest of America should pay heed to. The RV industry has long been an economic barometer of sorts, providing a leading indicator of the direction of the economy as a whole.   “R.V.’s have always preceded the rest of the economy in a downturn and in an upturn,” said Richard Curtin, an economist at the University of Michigan.  Many members of this industry are currently watching this trend as they see RV sales starting to level off.

Lawyer Atlanta GA

RV industry shipments aim to hit 539,900 through the end of 2018, in what would mark 9 straight years of growth.  This is a 7% increase over 2017 which tallied 504,600, and still less than the 550,000 forecasted for 2019.  Shipments year over year through Q1 saw a 13.4% lift.  These figures were provided by Frank Hugelmeyer, President of the RV Industry Association, to the association back in June.

Mr. Hugelmeyer has a lot to be optimistic about with the aging population, which tend to be the bread and butter of the RV industry, as well as outsized interest from the millennial age group, who are entering their generational period of extra discretionary income.  This all seems to align with the fact that since 2010, when the sector was emerging from the financial crisis, the RV industry has grown at an annual average of 12.6%.

Not everyone, however, shares Mr. Hugelmeyer’s glass half-full interpretation.  The city of Elkhart, Indiana, self-dubbed the “RV Capital of the World” is responsible for the production of more than 80 percent of Recreational vehicles sold in the U.S.  Many in the industry here are getting a different sense of the headwinds that propel this little corner of the economy.

While overall RV shipments were up for July, motor home shipments were down 6.5% in the same month.  Richard Curtin sees this as a “yellow light”.  Mr. Curtin acknowledges this could be a temporary condition such as excess inventory due to overproduction involving a nearly 10 year boom.  While not a significant cause for concern yet, there are other future looking indicators to be considered as opposed to historic sales.

Elkhart enjoys some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, at just over 2%.  Despite this, recently some companies there have been cutting their production workers to four day work weeks instead of five to alleviate some of the excess inventory.

Others point not to the temporary labor glut, but the larger factors that could be contributing to these headwinds.  The RV industry, like many other manufacturing and farming communities are hit first and hardest by the impacts of the trade tariffs.  Cost of goods for many in the industry are seeing increases of up to 50%.  These costs ultimately pass through to the consumer, and many blame the rising prices for the levelling off in shipments.

Senator Joe Donelly, A Democrat whose home is near Elkhart says, “I think there’s serious concern about the effects of tariffs on the R.V. industry.  So many of the components that go into R.V.s are directly affected by these tariffs.  Echoing these sentiments is Mark Dobson, the head of the Economic Development Corporation in Elkhart County, “Nobody’s in a panic, they are just concerned.”

Still, where some fear a downturn, others are thriving.  LCI industries, a large manufacturer of components for RV’s are experiencing growth in growing sectors.  CEO Jason Lippert is optimistic.  His company saw aftermarket component sales rise by more than half in the second quarter, signaling a move to RV maintenance as opposed to new purchases.  Dan Holtz, a small business owner in the industry welcomes a perceived slowdown, as he has said he is having trouble finding enough workers and sees it as nothing more than an expected correction.

While no one in the industry has hit the brakes just yet, some are starting to take their foot off the accelerator.  While Mr. Curtin believes conditions metaphorically display a yellow light, he concludes that, “Depending on how things evolve in six months, it could be a red light, getting to the end of the expansion.”  Every business owner in the RV industry concerned about the slowdown being experienced within the sector should retain qualified counsel to represent their interests.

Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys have over 12 years’ experience in representing clients in the RV space.   Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-671-4031 to discuss how we can assist you with protecting your RV business today.

Thrift & McLemore Announces the Addition of Katie Hickey, CPA/MBA

Please join us in congratulating Katie Hickey on becoming the newest member of our team.  Welcome Katie!

With two decades of legal and business experience, Katie Hickey has honed her ability to efficiently analyze and solve problems, while remaining well organized and attuned to key details.  As a paralegal who has quickly built a successful career path, Katie is instrumental in assisting our lawyers in real estate, corporate and litigation legal matters.  She routinely works on real estate and loan transactions, including title and survey review, corporate formation, and preparation of contracts, leases, and abstracts.  Katie also provides litigation support, including document examination and management, drafting of pleadings, and legal research.

Prior to becoming a paralegal, Katie worked for twelve years in accounting and finance with a Fortune 500 company. Katie graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from Drury University and has an MBA from Washington University.  Katie is also CPA certified, and was honored with an Excel Award for her outstanding performance on the CPA exam.

Georgia Year’s Support: An Essential Component to Comprehensive Estate Planning

By Kent C. Bailey, Esq., Thrift & McLemore, LLC, September 2, 2018

The death of a loved one is a time of extreme mourning and anguish for surviving family members.  In addition to the grieving process many may worry how they will move forward financially, especially if the deceased was the breadwinner of the family.  While many families are familiar with the need for a will to add financial security in these times, an almost forgotten provision in Georgia Probate Code is often neglected as a tool to care for these loved ones: Year’s Support.

What is Year’s Support? 

Georgia Code Title 53, Chapter 3 – Year’s Support is, despite its name a permanent award to a surviving spouse, minor children, or both.  It is a right to inherit property for these individuals, regardless of what may have been communicated via will, the absence of a will, or the relative position of the majority of creditors.  The beneficiary is generally entitled to receive an amount equaling satisfactory support and maintenance for a period of 12 months for a standard of living that the individual is accustomed to.  This right is not absolute; for if a spouse remarries or dies before filing, or if a minor child reaches the age of majority before filing, this right is lost.  To successfully secure a year’s support claim, a petitioner must file in the probate court in the county of the deceased within two years.  This claim can be challenged by other beneficiaries of the will, and the award will ultimately depend on the court’s discretion.

In Laymen’s Terms

Year’s Support is in actuality an antiquated law that has been on the books in Georgia for decades, dating back to a time when males were the primary provider and females were the primary caregivers within households.  While it holds a dated application in modern society, it is nonetheless an active law that can be very effective for families depending on the situation.  In a nutshell, it is a way to ensure that families of deceased individuals are not left out in the cold due to the decedent’s neglect in creating an effective estate plan, or due to changes in the decedent’s financial situation since the creation of an estate plan.  A properly petitioned Year’s Support claim places spouses and minor children squarely in the front of the line when it comes to divvying up deceased individuals assets, ensuring the family is fed before most creditors or distant money hungry relatives.

Applying Year’s Support Strategically

By terms of a properly executed will in Georgia, an individual would most often have a surviving spouse elect between the right of seeking an award of Year’s Support, or taking the property under the will as it exists.  For decedents facing significant debt at the end of life or blended families, this offers significant flexibility with regards to the estate.

Year’s Support is especially beneficial for families of deceased individuals with high levels of debt relative to assets.  Be it end of life care or some other reason, often times creditors can take the lion-share of an estate leaving surviving family members to fend for themselves.  A Year’s Support election pushes these family members to the front of the line at the expense of said creditors.  This does not include mortgage debt, but does extinguish personal debt such as credit cards, student loans, etc.

Blended families are another area where Year’s Support enjoys high participation.  If a decedent does a poor job of leaving assets to minor children in the event of remarriage, or leaves the very home that a second spouse lives in to his minor children, Year’s Support offers recourse for the aggrieved parties.  While many blended families are able to get along cordially, Year’s Support can be the last bastion of support for others engaged in a nasty probate battle.

Once properly filed, courts generally condone the award of Year’s Support unless an objection is filed by a separate party with an interest in the estate.  If an objection is filed, it is necessary to retain an attorney, as proper accounting of the estate and procedural actions apply.  The likelihood of a successful challenge depends on a number of factors, and is an intensely fact specific inquiry.

Also worth mentioning is that an award of Year’s Support only applies to probate assets.  This means that retirement accounts such as 401k’s, IRA’s, and life insurance policies are exempt unless there is no designated beneficiary.  Similarly, accounts designated as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (JTWRS) become sole property of the surviving individual upon death of the decedent, exempting themselves from reach of probate.

How Can We Help?

Before electing or petitioning for Year’s Support in Georgia, it is worth reviewing the complete fact set with a skilled attorney.  For a self- help guide on Year’s Support in Georgia, click here.  If you have any questions about Year’s Support, or any other aspect of Estate Planning in Georgia, the qualified attorney’s at Thrift & McLemore are here to help.  You can reach Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-671-4031 to discuss how we can assist you in creating an estate plan that works for you today.

Please visit us on the web at www.thriftlegal.com.

Legal Entity Establishment: Choosing the Right Legal Form for Your Georgia Startup

By Kent Bailey, Esq. – [email protected]

#GAStartUpLawyer

Choosing the proper legal form is one of the single most important decisions in the infancy of an Entrepreneur’s startup endeavors.  It will guide how decisions regarding the operation of business will be made, the exposure to liability of select members, and rules regarding taxation.  It is fair to assume that most, if not all, entrepreneurs have a sound foundation in the principles of business.  A large stumbling block for many of these same entrepreneurs is wading through the complexities of choosing the correct legal entity for their Georgia business.

Choosing the correct business formation depends on a variety of factors that are case specific to each small business owner’s individual situation and objectives.  Each entity carries with it its own pro’s and con’s that must be carefully weighed against the would be business owner’s needs, with an eye for optimizing success of the organization.  What follows are the most common entities and some information regarding each of them.

Sole Proprietorship

A Sole Proprietorship is the easiest type of business to form.  The business usually operates in the name of the owner.  There is no formal filing with the state to create this legal entity, and a business and or occupational license is all that is required to begin.  While this is the easiest business form to create, it also carries one of the largest drawbacks.  Personal and business activities are not distinguished in a Sole Proprietorship, meaning that all income from the business passes through to the owner or sole proprietor.  There is also no shield from liability, meaning that the business owner is personally liable to all debts of the business.

Partnership

Similar to a Sole Proprietorship, a partnership can be very simple to form, and is merely an agreement regarding a business relationship between two or more people who join to carry on a trade or business.  Where a Sole Proprietorship has a single owner and decision holder, a Partnership has at a minimum two members who are responsible for the carrying on of the business.  These partners contribute capital, labor, or skill to the organization and in return share in the profits and losses.  Generally speaking, a Partnership carries with it unlimited liability and pass through taxation, although some exceptions to this exist.  While a formal, written partnership agreement is not necessary to create a partnership in Georgia, it is strongly recommended.

C – Corporation

A C Corporation differs from a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership in that it is a unique legal entity that exists distinctly and separately from its owners.  It requires more steps to be properly formed, and must be registered with the Secretary of State in Georgia.  Ownership of a corporation is governed by shareholders of the entity who appoint a board of directors to oversee corporate decisions and policies.  This board of directors can elect officers of the company to manage day to day affairs.  In a start-up or small business, these officers are also typically the shareholders.  With the drawback of the C Corp. being the complexity of the organization, the benefit of this entity is the legal separation of assets and liability from the owner.  Income from the Corporation is taxed to the corporation then sent to the individual in the form of a distribution.  This is referred to as “double taxation” however the benefit of this formation is that the liability of the corporation does not extend to the personal assets of the owner.

S – Corporation

An S – Corporation is comprised of the same formation that exists for a C – Corp. above save for one difference.  S – Corp. Status is an election made to have the corporation’s income and expenses taxed to the owner’s via “pass through” discussed above.  It offers the same liability safe havens as a general corporation, but avoids the “double taxation” that exists within a C – Corp.  There are limitations as to who may qualify for organization under an S – Corp.

Limited Liability Company

A Limited Liability Company; or LLC is a hybrid entity that combines the limited liability characteristics of a corporation with the beneficial tax structure of a partnership.  While requiring more formality and steps to create than a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership, an LLC enjoys the same flexibility that these entities share with regards to pass through taxation and ease of ownership decision making.  LLC’s also enjoy the benefits of corporate formation with regards to limitation of liability, while avoiding the rigidity of double taxation, required shareholder meetings, complex decision making, or issuance and management of stock.  Limited Liability Companies are popular among small business owners in the state of Georgia.

For more resources on starting your Georgia business, reference the Secretary of States “First Start Business Guide”, at https://sos.ga.gov/admin/files/First_stop_business_guide.pdf.  If you wish to retain legal help in evaluating, starting, or managing your Georgia small business or start-up, contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-671-4031 to discuss how we can assist you in creating your Georgia business today.

Please visit us on the web at www.thriftlegal.com.

#GAStartUpLawyer

Thrift & McLemore Announces Kent Bailey as a new Attorney Hire

Please join us in congratulating Kent Bailey on becoming the newest attorney in our Atlanta office.

Mr. Bailey was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 2017, receiving his JD from Georgia State University College of Law that same year.  Prior to law school, Kent worked for a publicly held consulting corporation as well as a privately held petroleum retailer here in Atlanta.  He brings his background in corporate negotiation and financial analytics to Thrift and McLemore where he applies these skills to the practice of law.  Mr. Bailey received his BBA in Economics from The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

Attorney Kent Bailey

Armada Hoffler Announces Two Mixed-Use Developments in Baltimore, Atlanta (Credit: REBusiness)

BALTIMORE AND ATLANTA — Armada Hoffler Properties Inc. (NYSE: AHH), a commercial real estate developer and investor based in Virginia Beach, is participating in two new mixed-use projects in Baltimore and Atlanta. The REIT’s wholly owned subsidiary, Armada Hoffler Construction Co., will serve as general contractor for both developments.

 

The Interlock is a public-private partnership between S.J. Collins Enterprises and Georgia Tech. The mixed-use development will be located in Atlanta’s West Midtown district about a mile from Georgia Tech’s campus.

In Baltimore’s Inner Harbor East district, Armada Hoffler is developing Wills Wharf, a 12-story mixed-use building that will anchor the 27-acre Harbor Point development. Armada Hoffler co-developed the other components of Harbor Point with Beatty Development Group, including the 500,000-square-foot Exelon mixed-use tower, the 260,000-square-foot Thames Street Wharf office building and Point Street Apartments.

Situated on the waterfront of the Inner Harbor, the $117 million Wills Wharf project will span 325,000 square feet of office and retail space and will feature a 156-room Canopy by Hilton hotel on the top four floors. Armada Hoffler expects to deliver the building in the first quarter of 2020.

“Wills Wharf represents the latest evolution of a relationship with the principals of Beatty Development Group that has spanned over two decades,” says Louis Haddad, president and CEO of Armada Hoffler Properties. “We are excited to continue our relationship with Beatty Development Group in leading Baltimore’s urban renaissance and creating the city’s newest contemporary mixed-use neighborhood.”

In Atlanta, Armada Hoffler is providing mezzanine debt to help fund the office and retail portions of The Interlock. The project is a public-private partnership between master developer S.J. Collins Enterprises and Georgia Tech, which will serve as the ground lessor and anchor office tenant. The development will be located at the corner of Howell Mill Road and 14th Street in Atlanta’s West Midtown district, about one mile northwest of Georgia Tech’s campus.

The Interlock will include 200,000 square feet of office space, with Georgia Tech committed to occupy 50,000 square feet. The project will also include 90,000 square feet of retail space, 350 apartment units, 70 single-family townhomes and a 125-room boutique hotel. No construction timeline or price was disclosed, but Armada Hoffler expects to break ground by the end of the year.

“We are excited to forge a new relationship with Georgia Tech and to expand our strategic partnership with S.J. Collins,” says Haddad. “The Interlock represents the latest in our portfolio of investments in high-profile, mixed-use, public-private partnerships in the Southeast. We look forward to expanding our geographic reach into West Midtown Atlanta.”

Founded in 1979, Armada Hoffler Properties currently has seven other projects in its development pipeline across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic. The REIT’s stock price closed on Monday, July 30 at $15.08 per share, up from $13.26 a year ago.  — John Nelson

Porsche’s Airport Hotel Is Pampering Dogs with Dinner and Drinks (Credit: Eater Atlanta)

Solis Two Porsche Drive hotel and Apron restaurant are going the extra mile with their menu offerings for dogs flying the friendly skies

Porsche’s posh Solis Two Porsche Drive hotel located at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport now offers “Sit, Stay, Solis” for guests traveling with their dogs. The Porsche Experience Center hotel provides an in-room dog bed, a dedicated dinner menu, and even a happy hour for dogs at Apron restaurant.

Upon check-in, guests traveling with their dogs will receive a dog bed, crate, and food and water bowls to keep their canines comfortable in their hotel rooms. Owners can then take their pups down to Apron’s dog-friendly patio for a special menu developed by executive chef Derrick Green with treats, ice cream, and “pupsicles.”

Once a month, Apron is hosting “Puptails on the Pawtio” where dogs are treated to grooming and training sessions while their owners listen to guest speakers and attend book signings. On-site adoptions days are also in the works. The next dog adoption day is scheduled for Saturday, August 18 with Lifeline Animal Project.

A $75 non-refundable pet fee is required upon check-in at the hotel. There is no weight limit for dogs staying at Solis Two Porsche Drive. Sorry, only two pets per room.

https://atlanta.eater.com/2018/7/23/17602122/two-solis-porsche-drive-dog-friendly-menu-atlanta

This Year’s Atlanta Metro Export Challenge to Launch With July 18 Event

The Atlanta Metro Export Challenge, which has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2016 to help local exporters with their global sales journeys, is returning again this year with backing from JPMorgan Chase

Administered by the Metro Atlanta Chamber but open to firms from the 29-county region, the challenge will hold an information session and kickoff meeting at the NanoLumens office in Peachtree Corners at 4 p.m. July 18. 

There, potential participants will hear about how the challenge has helped companies hone their strategies and receive the financial boost needed to enhance existing sales or jumpstart international growth. 

And this recap won’t just be coming from the organizers: previous winners from the last two years will be on hand to provide their first hand testimonials about the experience. 

Many have said that the challenge — and the broader thinking it fosters — has catapulted their companies into positive new territory. 

One example is Triatek, which won last year’s pitch competition to the tune of $20,000 — and that was after the first-round victory that saw the maker of ventilation systems for hospitals and research labs take home $5,000. 

Triatek was bought by Johnson Controls Inc.  shortly after its export-challenge victory, and company leaders say having a global footprint, a process accelerated by the challenge, contributed substantially to its being seen as a promising acquisition target. 

Cars 360, another export-challenge winner with app used to take 360-degree photo for car sales listings, was acquired by Carvana, the company seeking disrupt the car dealership process through technology and simplicity. 

For interested companies, here’s how the process works: Companies apply for a grant by outlining practical plans on how they would use $5,000 to generate more export sales. Thirty will be selected as first-round winners, receiving reimbursements for expenses in sums up to that amount. Then, those winners will be invited back later in the year for a pitch competition for the possibility of winning an additional $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000. 

Start the application process here, and register for the informational event here

Editor’s note: Global Atlanta is an organizing partner of some Atlanta Metro Export Challenge events.

Scenic Mountain RV Park nominated for second-consecutive year (Credit: Union Recorder)

Credit: Union Recorder

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final entry in our series spotlighting the four finalists for the Milledgeville-Baldwin County 2018 Small Business of the Year Award. The winner will be announced at the annual Chamber gala Saturday evening.

For almost five years now Scenic Mountain RV Park and Campground has been under the ownership of Butch Shaffer. 

And for two years in a row, the 72-space park has been selected as a finalist for the Milledgeville-Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Award. 

Scenic Mountain boasts tons of amenities for both its short- and long-term guests. There’s a pool to help kids and adults escape the Georgia heat, fire pits to keep them warm when it’s cold, and full hook-ups (water, electric, and sewage) that help make RVs and campers feel like home.

Alicia Dallago, marketing manager for Scenic Mountain, was asked by the owner, Shaffer, to come onto the staff about four years ago. She is originally from Argentina but lived in Pittsburgh, Pa. for 40 years where she and Shaffer met. Dallago’s accent is very different from the Southern twang commonly heard around Milledgeville, and she admitted to being a little nervous about going into business in an unfamiliar area. 

“‘Wow!’ That’s my reaction,” Dallago said when asked how it feels to be chosen as a finalist for the second time. “It’s really a very, very nice feeling. Being a foreigner that talks funny and that came from the north to a small town, I had my doubts how I was going to be received, and oh my gosh was I wrong. I feel like I’m at home because well, I am home. Being nominated for the second time is just great.”

When Shaffer took over Scenic Mountain a little more than four years ago the park was in rough shape, as described by Dallago. Money was poured in to make the park less of a stopover and more of a destination.

“When we bought the park it was the kind of RV park where people would come for one night, leave early in the morning, and not think twice about staying longer,” Dallago said. “Now they come for one night and end up staying a week. They come back and bring their friends, too. They spend $40 a night here, but they also buy groceries, gas or diesel fuel, and they go to restaurants. It helps the economy of Milledgeville.”

One would think that the summer would be the busiest time of year for a campground. Kids are out of school, so it’s easier for families’ schedules to come together and allow for some time to get away. But the marketing manager said that Scenic Mountain is always busy with both short- and long-term guests coming to enjoy time out of their homes and away from their busy day-to-day lives. The local campground has also served as a sanctuary for those escaping the effects of hurricanes and tropical storms that land on the Georgia coast. Dallago said they have put evacuees anywhere that water and electrical hook-ups could be found. In the same vein, Scenic Mountain is in the process of creating a storm shelter for its guests for when hazardous weather makes its way through the area.

The park often receives compliments on its friendly staff, cleanliness, and spacious sites, according to Dallago, all of which are a point of pride for the local small business. The campground staff also seeks to get to know those making the park their temporary homes with potluck dinners and ice cream socials that take place on some of the bigger holidays throughout the year. 

“A lot of times RV park owners just check people in and don’t interact with their guests,” Dallago said. “Well, we really interact with our guests. Butch and I, a lot of times, drive around in our golf cart to say hello to everybody.”

Scenic Mountain strives to do business the old-fashioned way. Many RV parks and campgrounds accept reservations online, but Scenic Mountain chooses not to for a couple of reasons. Dallago and Shaffer like doing things with a more personal touch, but also because guests who planned on staying only one day often decide they aren’t quite ready to leave making it impossible to give someone who might reserve a particular space online that spot. Many would deem that as a good problem to have.

Scenic Mountain RV Park and Campground is located at 2686 Irwinton Road and can be reached by phone at 478-454-1013.

RV warranty lets manufacturer forgo covering repairs

Even though the buyer of the recreational vehicle described it as a “jalopy,” the 7th Circuit of Appeals found the warranty was built solidly enough to prevent the manufacturer from having to cover the repairs.

Nicholas Knopick bought a $414,583 Jayco RV at a dealership in Iowa in July 2012, but he signed the purchase documents and took title on behalf of Montana Freedom Rider LLC, a company he controlled. Almost immediately after the sale was complete, Knopick began having trouble with the unit. He said it leaked, smelled of sewage and the features were poorly installed.

Although Jayco repaired the RV twice at its manufacturing facility in Indiana, Knopick was not satisfied and sued the company. The U.S. District Court in for the Northern District of Indiana granted summary judgment to Jayco, and Knopick appealed to the 7th Circuit.

District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio ruled Knopick had no rights under the warranty because the RV was actually purchased by a business. The language in the two-year limited manufacturer’s warranty specifically states it does not cover any RV used for commercial purposes or purchased in a business’s name.

Before the appellate panel, Knopick argued Jayco waived the “business-purpose RV” exclusion by performing some repairs at no charge. The company was treating the vehicle as if it were covered by the warranty.

The 7th Circuit disagreed in Nicholas Knopick v. Jayco, Inc., 17-2285. The panel pointed out the warranty also included a provision that stated any fixes done on an RV bought by a business would be considered “good will” repairs and would not alter the terms of the warranty.

Under Knopick’s waiver argument, the appellate court said, merchants who go beyond their contractual duties would risk obliging themselves to perform new and broader duties. This could discourage amicable resolutions to minor commercial disputes.

“In business generally and in consumer markets, a contracting party’s willingness to go beyond her strictly enforceable legal obligations is a key commercial lubricant,” Judge David Hamilton wrote. “It facilitates trust, long-term relationships, repeat customers, and referrals.”

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