NCC Member Spotlight: Lynwood Wellhausen
Can you give us a brief profile of your company?
Rudgate Communities is a private, family-owned company that began in 1968. It was an outgrowth of another family business focusing on land development. The first community, Rudgate Manor, was built in four phases over five years, totaling 931 sites. It was one of landscape designer Don Westphal’s first design projects.
Rudgate has developed several more communities, totaling 3,600 sites all in southeast Michigan, since then.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How long have you been in the manufactured housing industry?
When I’m asked about my background, I always think back to how many times in my first 15 years in business I’ve been “bought and sold” through a series of business acquisitions. From senior administrator with a Detroit industrial film production company to a New York TV production company, to a Massachusetts educational film company to a major publishing company in New York. Too many moves prompted me to make just one more, back to Michigan. I purchased an RV campground, operated it for nine years, and then that was bought by a California time-share company. I then accepted the position of Michigan’s RV & Campground Director, working closely with Tim DeWitt and the Manufactured Housing Division. After six years with the Michigan association, Rudgate’s owners approached me to manage and grow the company’s three communities, comprised at that time of 1900 sites. Today, 12 years later, Rudgate has grown to eight entities and 3,600 sites, all in Michigan.
What is your company philosophy?
Rudgate’s philosophy can best be described by our mission statement, which hangs on my and our community managers’ walls.
“Produce the best possible results in every transaction
To the benefit of all interested parties
And to establish positive long-term relationships
Encourage ethical standards in everything we do
And expect that of those who work with and around us
Promote professionalism in our industry
By fostering a spirit of cooperation
And friendship among our competitors.”
What are you most proud of about your company?
To take pride in a company is to first take pride in the people that work with and for you. That process comes from leading, teaching, and then empowering them. All six community managers have earned the ACM and MHM accreditations. Three office managers also have the ACM accreditation. Two managers have won the Doug Altschwager award for their achievements. They are professional through and through.
What are some of the challenges currently facing your company?
Our greatest challenge is to retain our residents. Low interest rates for site-built housing have impacted us more than we anticipated.
What do you see as the most pressing issues facing manufactured home communities today?
From my perspective, the communities that have the greatest future growth are “senior” or “”55-and-older” communities. Just look at the growth rate among the baby-boomer generation. The challenge there is to keep the rents affordable. Family communities will struggle to keep occupancy levels up. The desire for most Americans is not to just own a home, but to own the land under it. That means more land-home than community growth.
Can you name someone in the industry that you admire and why?
He’s retired now, but I have always had great admiration for John Crean, founder of Fleetwood Enterprises. From humble beginnings in North Dakota to trailer design at Viking, and inventor of a new style of Venetian blind. He carved a careful path to success in the RV and manufactured housing business.
He’s also a philanthropic supporter of youth-service organizations. He and wife, Donna, held the Husband-Wife class record for the grueling Tijuana to LaPaz Baja, California off-road race. Great accomplishment. While still chairman and CEO of Fleetwood, John created a gourmet cooking show, starring himself on local California TV.
Who are your personal heroes?
A personal hero that stands out among all others is cyclist Lance Armstrong. He overcame testicular cancer to become a five-time Tour-de-France winner. A cancer survivor, champion, hero and leader! He wrote one of my favorite non-fiction books “It’s Not About The Bike”.
Can you tell us something about yourself that people may find surprising?
It’s probably surprising to anyone who follows baseball that I plan on renewing my season tickets to the Detroit Tigers next year. It may also be surprising to learn that I’m a hobbyist bee-keeper and have several hives in my backyard. I was introduced to bee-keeping by Charlie Dickey, long-time CEO of Scott Paper Company. My first entry of honey into the Michigan State Fair last year (2002) resulted in my bees being awarded a premium ribbon!
Lyn Wellhausen can be contacted at LWellhausen@Rudgate.com