Phil Surles, Athens Park Homes NEWS RELEASE
William Garpow, RPTIA, Inc.
ATHENS PARK HOMES, LLC BEGINS PARK MODEL PRODUCTION
The new company, launched by former Champion Enterprises COO Phil
Surles, plans to continue expanding its workforce this year
ATHENS, Texas, April 14, 2005 ― Athens Park Homes has begun
producing park models, providing employment for more than 50 local residents,
many of whom lost their jobs when Champion Enterprises, Inc. closed its Athens
operations last year.
“We’re right on schedule,” said Phil Surles, the former chief operating
officer of Champion Enterprises, Inc. who formed Athens Park Homes, LLC, with
a group of investors last summer.
He added that demand for park models is already exceeding expectations
and is prompting him to accelerate production of units bound for campgrounds
and private parcels in Texas and other locations across the Sunbelt.
“We’re producing one unit a day and I hope to be producing two a day or
about 44 per month by the end of the year,” Surles said, adding that his company
may also boost its workforce to 60 by December.
The park model business is experiencing record growth. Manufacturers’
shipments to dealers were up 30 percent in 2004, setting an all time industry
record. Surles added that rising demand for park models in Texas and across the
country makes it worthwhile for him to establish a park model manufacturing
plant in Athens.
Half of the nation’s park model manufacturers are located in northern
Indiana, while most of the others are in the Southeast and Southwest, mainly in
Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida, with smaller clusters in Texas,
Arizona and Southern California.
“We feel that the Texas park model market is going to grow,” said Surles,
who spent 27 years in the manufacturing housing business before leading a
group of investors to form Athens Park Homes. “Demand for park models is
already strong in Texas, particularly in the Texas Hill Country, and since most of
the park models are made in Indiana, we feel we would have a huge freight
advantage by building these units here.”
Surles is also enticed by the strong demographics of the park model
buyers, who tend to be more affluent than mobile or manufactured home
customers. “In this business, you’ve got a very good quality customer,” he said,
adding, “Eighty percent of our park model sales are in cash.”
The demographic base of the park model business is also continuing to
grow, he said. No longer the exclusive domain of retirees, park models are
increasingly sought after by working professionals and families who use the units
as weekend getaways or seasonal retreats.
Unlike mobile homes, which are a form of low-cost, permanent house,
recreational park trailers or “park models” are moveable resort cottages that are
designed exclusively for part time recreational use. Typically upscale in
appearance, they often include bay windows and lofts as well as walnut, oak or
maple cabinetry. Park model RVs also feature higher ceilings and more windows
than travel trailers or fifth wheels, which must adhere to different construction
guidelines for highway use.
Typically costing less than $50,000, with an average price in the $33,000
range, park models are becoming increasingly competitive with condos and site
built vacation homes in resort locations, which can easily cost $200,000 or
$300,000 or more. As a result, demand for park models is up nearly 30 percent
this year, compared to last year’s figures, according to shipment statistics
compiled by the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) in
“As baby boomers begin to retire, there will be a lot of them who can buy
two of these units and have one on the coast and one in the mountains,” Surles
Athens Park Homes began manufacturing operations in December with 30
employees. “We think we’ll be able to hire many of the former Champion
Enterprises employees who lost their jobs with the closure of the Athens plant
last year,” Surles said, adding, “The manufactured housing base in Athens is
accustomed to building high-end custom, modular housing, so building upscale
park models will not pose a manufacturing issue.”
Athens Park Homes builds a full line of park models, including cabin-style
units, but specializes in the middle and upper end of the market, offering full tape
and texture, cement fiber siding and other amenities. Surles has contracted with
Roger Davis of Lifestyle Designs in Atlanta, Ga., a well-known designer of floor
plans and decors for park model and modular housing, to design the floor plans
for Athens Park Homes.
For more information about Athens Park Homes, please contact Phil
Surles at (903) 677-0108 or visit the company’s website at
www.athensparkhomes.com. For information about the recreational park trailer
industry, please contact William Garpow at (770) 251-2672 or visit the
association’s website at www.rptia.com.