ARVC Leadership Profile: Wade Elliott
Utility Supply Group
Nationwide provider of electrical products for campgrounds and RV parks
Member, ARVC Supplier Council
After successful careers as a naval submarine officer and naval nuclear power plant engineer as well as in commercial banking, finance and database marketing, what led you to get involved in the campground industry?
I always wanted to have my own business. I think that’s how a lot of RV park owners got into this industry. There was a larger company that was going to shut this part of their business down, and I felt I could take it over and provide the value-add proposition of being the source of answers for the electrical part of an RV park. That’s why I endeavor to belong to the board of the National Electric Code (NEC) and the standards technical panel and the NFPA 1194. I get on these boards and panels that really don’t have anything to do with sales when you look at them directly, but when Utility Supply Group becomes the place you go to for answers, and oh, by the way, they’ve got pedestals, that’s what I was looking to provide.
You’ve also served on ARVC’s Public Affairs Committee and as chair of the Supplier Council. Why do you feel it's important to be involved in so many different aspects of the industry?
It's important for me to give back to the organization and to the industry. A number of years ago, I was on the ARVC Business Forum and we were having a meeting with the board of directors down in Amelia Island, Fla. We were in small groups and I was leading the meeting, talking passionately about what RV parks should do. There was a gentleman there that didn't know me, his name was David L. Berg. He turned to somebody and said, “I don't know this guy. What park does he own?” Someone told him, “He doesn't own an RV park. He’s a vendor.” And that's how I always wanted to be seen, as a member of the group, helping people in our industry and our association understand the right way to do something and to give them a way to solve their problems.
Utility Supply Group was recently acquired by Rexel USA Inc. How will the acquisition impact campground owners?
In one way, it'll be business as usual. We still have all the same products and we've got the same warehouses and systems. The addition, and the beauty of it, is that we were bought by a large electrical wholesale and retail operation that operates across the United States and Canada. So now there are over 400 branches where we have access to all their materials, and they have access to our pedestals. If someone calls me and says they’re building a park and they need their electrical layout done, we can still do that. We can recommend the pedestals and the wire and the distribution panel, all those things that we've done in the past. But we can also now provide all the other electrical pieces that a campground needs, not only for their RV sites, but also for all their buildings. In many cases, we can even help recommend an electrician.
There are now many first-time owners that are either buying parks or building them from scratch. What advice would you give them from an electrical perspective?
If you’re buying a park, know what you’re getting. Know what’s in the ground. Find out what it will take from an electrical infrastructure perspective, not only to get it up to code, but to get it to a place where it’s a park that you want. If you’re buying a park that’s a diamond in the rough, you’re going to have to put some sweat equity into it. If you're going for a higher-end park and you've got 30 amp and it's only intermittent, you’re going to have to bring it up to code to get it up to 50 amp. You may also want to think about if you want lights or meters or if you want an upper-end pedestal or if you want patio sites and sewers at all the sites and those types of things. If you’re buying a green field, go to association meetings and talk with designers that that that have designed RV parks. There are plenty of them who know what they’re talking about who follow the NFPA 1194 code. It’s also important to hire an electrical contractor that knows the code for RV parks and has done the work before. RV parks are different than almost anything else electrically. You don't want to do it wrong.
Interested in learning more about how to expand or build your campground? ARVC’s NFPA 1194 Certification Course is available online, designed to ensure that park owners and operators have in-depth knowledge of the current standards for RV parks and campgrounds design and construction as outlined by the National Fire Protection Agency. Click here to learn more: NFPA 1194 Certification Course