Outdoor RV Growing in Leaps and Bounds

A northeastern Oregon recreational vehicle and camper manufacturer has grown significantly thanks in part to the help of Business Oregon over two decades.

Northwood Manufacturing, and its sister company Outdoors RV Manufacturing, Inc., employ 450 workers at two plants near La Grande. The company says it is the largest camper manufacturer in the nation and has become the fourth largest maker of RVs.

The company began in manufacturing travel trailers and campers in the early 1990s. Company owner Ron Nash purchased a nearby shuttered Fleetwood RV facility in May 2009. The first RVs rolled off the manufacturing line in the summer of 2009 and the combined revenues of both companies grew approximately $31 million that year to close to $100 million by 2013, company CEO Jim Jones told a legislative committee in March 2013.

The company's RV product lines include Back Country, Black Stone, Creek Side, Timber Ridge and Wind River. All sales are to independent RV dealers in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. The company sells about half of all its RVs to the Canadian market.

Business Oregon has assisted the company with four separate Oregon Business Development Fund (OBDF) loans in 1994, 1996, 2009 and 2013 respectively. The latest OBDF loan in April 2013 totaled $400,000 and helped finance the company's $1 million, 20,000-square-foot expansion of its RV manufacturing facilities. The expansion is expected to create 18, new full-time jobs over three years.

In March 2013, Jones told the Oregon Legislative committee that the company's fast growth had made it difficult to find enough workers and thus meant the company had to find as many manufacturing efficiencies as possible. The Oregon Business Development Fund backing helped the companies realize those efficiencies, Jones testified.

"The Oregon Business Development Fund has been a benefit to us from the standpoint of as the labor force maxes out we have to look at being more efficient," Jones testified.