Three Manufactured Housing Companies Provide 500 Jobs, Residual Economic Impact

mobile-homeSHIPPENVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – The economic benefits of the manufactured housing industry in the region can readily be seen just in the number of jobs from three area housing plants.

(Photo above: Speakers included Mary Gaiski, Barry Shein, and John Fanelli)

Economic impact and industry challenges were highlighted this past week in official testimony before a legislative panel at Colony Homes.

“In our three factories, we employ around 500 people, so we’re bringing 500 jobs in northwestern Pennsylvania,” said Barry Shein, owner of Colony, Commodore, and Penn West Homes.

“Those jobs range from a clerical or administrative job in the $18.00 to $22.00 an hour range.  Our production workers make anywhere from $18.00 to $22.00 an hour.  Every day, every week that is the standard.  We’re developing jobs for $40,000.00 to $50,000.00 a year.  Management and sales jobs range from $40,000.00 to $150,000.00 per year.  There’s a huge ripple impact for the economy from the jobs that are here.”

Shein said the companies are proud to be in Western Pennsylvania, and the family-owned company will continue to be family-owned when his son-in-law replaces him.

“The people who grew up here and work for us stay here,” said Shein.  “One of my biggest challenges is asking someone to move to another area of the country in one of our other factories for promotion, but Pennsylvania employees stay in Pennsylvania.”

In addition to the economic impact of the employees, additional impact is generated with the purchase of material from the local area for construction. For example, steel used in the chassis of the homes is from Unique Fabrications, a local manufacturer located near Colony. Warehouses and distributors throughout Pennsylvania also supply the factories.

(Pictured above: State Representative Tedd Nesbit, State Senator Scott Hutchinson, and State Representative Donna Oberlander)

A sampling of other testimonies reveals additional impacts, concerns, and support levels.  

Comments follow below:

Helping Future Employees

Jill Foys, Executive Director of the Northwest Commission.

“Stable, successful manufacturers benefit the region by providing families sustaining wages and benefits. In addition, the supply chain to the manufactured housing industry, including those who provide components of the homes and transportation of the finished product, add to the number of families and communities positively affected by the presence of these manufacturers in Clarion County.

“Colony Homes shares time and talent with the Construction Technology Program at the Career Center. Each year with the guidance of their instructor and Colony Homes staff, students completely build a modular home. The home is advertised for bid at the end of the school year and is sold. The profits from the sale of the home are placed in an account to allow for the continuations of the program. However, with this program and many of the cooperative agreements the Career Center has with other employers in the region, students are provided real world experiences and feedback from potential employers.

Battling Stereotypes

William Henry, III,  a member of the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation and co-owner of Showcase Homes.

“In the housing industry, the phrase ‘mobile’ often conjures up the image of a generic-looking, nondescript house or trailer. However, there are many reasons why these stereotypes deserve to be wiped away. Today’s manufactured homes come in a wide variety of styles and layouts, including a new wave of clean, modernist designs. And, since they’re usually more affordable than traditional stick built homes, buyers can get more for their money. One of the biggest challenges is the stigma; these are not trailers and cannot be hooked up to your pickup truck and moved. Even though these are very well-built homes, we still have people coming to planning meetings and saying that you’re killing our home values, when in fact, today’s manufactured housing is more likely to increase the values of their existing homes.

“When buyers choose a manufactured home, they still have to arrange for building permits, electrical hookups, water supply, and sewage connections, just as if they were planning for a custom-built home. You no longer just pull the home in and hook it up like a camper. The foundation for these homes have to be designed by an engineer and must meet all local codes.”

Code Clash

John Fanelli, one of the owners of Riverview Homes, headquartered in Vandergrift.

“The federal government regulates the homes, the site work is regulated through local enforcement, usually a building code officer, and finally the installation of the home itself is regulated by Pennsylvania through DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development). With all of this, we wonder why we will have what I refer to as ‘code clash.’ Code clash is simply when the right hand and the left-hand clash over who is in charge of what.”

“Let’s be frank.  The Unified Construction Code is many things, but it simply is not unified. It is not unified as it relates to the IRC throughout the state.  And, it is certainly not unified when the two codes meet. Every day we are faced with misinterpretation of the code, and often we are faced with simple pure bias as it relates to our product. More importantly, is the cost associated with these ‘code clashes.’ As a retailer, we know we will have to add things to get a certificate of occupancy that is not required. We are adding in for the hassle we know we will have and – of course – passing this cost on to our customers.”

(This article is Part Two of a two-part series on the manufactured housing industry in our region.)

To read Part One, follow this link: Manufactured Housing Industry Asks Legislators for Help to Remain Competitive

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