A History of The Manufactured Housing Institute

By Al Hesselbart,
Vice President of The Manufactured Housing Heritage Foundation

The current MHI organization came into being on September 1, 1975 following about ten years of negotiations between the major associations representing manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, and state organizations.

Trailer Coach Association (TCA) formed March 5, 1936, and headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., represented the industry in the western portion of the country. TCA held its first show in Los Angeles in May 1936. TCA founded “Trailer Life” magazine as it’s house organ and promotional periodical in 1941. The magazine was sold to Art Rouse in 1958. The TCA developed a set of construction standards in 1951 which were optional to their members. TCA’s headquarters became the offices of MHI Western Region.

Mobile Homes Manufacturers Association (MHMA) formed in August, 1936, as the Trailer Coach Manufacturers Association, and headquartered first in Detroit and then moved to Chicago in 1938, represented the industry in the Midwest and East. Seeds of this organization were first planted at the Tin Can Tourists convention at Grand Rapids, Mich. in 1935. MHMA held its first show in August 1939, at Manistee, Mich. Twenty-eight manufacturers showed 95 models. The MHMA developed a set of standards for mechanical and material components in 1958. The national headquarters was moved to Chantilly, Va. in 1972, and to Washington D.C. in 1974. MHMA’s offices became MHI national headquarters.

The Mobile Home Craftman’s Guild was a group of manufacturers, all MHMA members, who joined together in 1958 to develop the “Gold Seal” program as a pledge to follow the latest standards for mechanical, material, and design components. In 1964, the TCA standards and the MHMA standards were combined under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute in 1964, with the ANSI program still in use. Following this combination, the Gold Seal lost much of its effectiveness and was no longer in use in 1975.

South East Mobile Home Institute (SEMHI) formed in 1967. It represented the interests of state manufactured housing associations in the states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The association continued to exist as a representative of its member state organizations following the creation of MHI, but after one to two years it was felt it was redundant and disbanded.

Mobilehome Dealers National Association (MDNA) represented the retailers nationally and was not directly involved in the forming of MHI but did cease to exist at the same time as SEMHI.

The Board of MHMA approved the formation of MHI at its annual meeting in March of 1975, TCA’s board approved it on June 1, 1975, and SEMHI approved it on September 1, 1975, making the creation of MHI officially accepted by all participating bodies.

This team of industry leaders with the support of many others working on task forces and committees shaped the future of MHI. By merging the finest attributes of all of the various associations, they created an organization which politically represented the industry nationally before lawmaking bodies. By standardizing methods, quality and safety of manufacturing materials and techniques they lead the way for the growth of today’s manufactured home industry.

As state associations gained strength and represented the local community operators and retailers to state legislative bodies and provided shows, and other marketing activities for their membership, The National Manufactured Housing Federation was formed in 1977 under the leadership of Holt Blomgren and others to facilitate development of a national consensus on key issues. Blomgren, Executive Director of the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association became its first Executive Director, and Paul Stiner, its first President. Originally involving seven state associations (California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Washington), the federation grew to represent 41 states by 1983. The Iowa MHI was the first association to join with the original seven.

In March of 1991, at the Nashville Manufactured Housing Show, the Executive Committees of MHI and the Federation agreed to pursue a merger. In September, the Board of the Federation approved the action at its meeting in Las Vegas and the MHI Board approved the merger at its meeting in October in San Diego. The National Manufactured Housing Federation thus became the Federated States Division of MHI in October 1991. This action effectively joined all aspects of the manufactured housing industry – suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and communities, into one associated body.

The original officers of MHI were:

Chairman: William Weide, Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc.
V. Chair: John Trask, DMH Co.
Secretary: M.W. Deitch, Deitch Enterprises
Treasurer: Fred Haile, Magic Chef
Sgt at Arms: Ed Brizz, Moen

Manufacturer members of the Board of Directors were:

L.C. Merta, Moduline
Thomas Malloy, Bendix Housing
Donald Techentien, Conchemo
Robert Morris, Coachmen Industries

Supplier members of the Board of Directors were:

Dean Replogle, Bristol Products
James Myers, National Gypsum
Peter Sechia, Universal Forest Products
Stan Reiners, Monsanto
Joseph Ellis, LaSalle-Deitch
Roy Beck, Beck Corporation

“Mobile Home Dealer” and “Mobile Home Merchandiser” magazines and “Homes for Travel and Living” by Dr. Carlton Edwards, from the collection of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation. Interviews with Roger Reynolds, MHMA staff-retired; Bill Garpow, Public Relations Director of SEMHI at the time of the merger; and Dan Gilligan past director of the National Manufactured Housing Federation