Manufactured housing industry changing in post-Katrina market

by For the MBJ

Published: April 28,2008

For three generations, the Cappaert family has manufactured homes for families throughout the South. Based in Vicksburg, company president Mike Cappaert is the second generation to manufacture mobile homes. “My father started Magnolia Mobile Homes in 1952, which he later sold. In 1987, we started Cappaert Manufactured Housing.”

And now, a third generation, Cappaert’s son, Brent, is working in the business. “He has a business degree from Ole Miss and an MBA from Southern Miss. Brent is in charge of quality control at the factory, so I guess you can say he’s being groomed to take over the reigns some day.”

Cappaert started in the business back in high school, working after school and summers. In the business for 45 years, he has been elected into the National Manufactured Housing Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., as well as into the Mississippi Manufactured Housing Association’s Hall of Fame. He currently serves on the association’s board of directors.

“This is the only industry in the country that has a national building code,” Cappaert explained. “We have to adhere to the HUD code, which is something site built homes don’t have to do. They are regulated by local jurisdictions, whereas we must always stick to national standards. Every day we open the plant to build homes, there is a HUD representative on site to make sure we are in compliance.”

Cappaert Manufactured Housing makes single and double-wide homes. “What we produce on a day-to-day basis depends on market conditions,” said Cappaert. “Our plant is designed for mixed production of multi-wides and single wides.”

Two other housing manufacturers in Mississippi are New River Homes in Burnsville and Lexington Homes in Lexington. New River Homes has been in business two years and builds approximately six manufactured homes a day. With 200 employees, the company manufactures homes that are sold to surrounding states, although the homes are sold primarily in Mississippi and Louisiana. “Some of our orders are Katrina-driven,” explained Jack Beard, co-owner of the business. “But then again, the economy is good in Louisiana, with oil selling at $116 a barrel.”

Beard said he loves this business. “It’s a good business to be in these days. We build many different models of both single and double-wide homes.”

One company that has really thrived post-Katrina is Lexington Homes. The company builds “Mississippi Cottages,” a evolution of the original Katrina Cottages. “It’s basically like a site-built house on wheels,” explained Gene Rogers. “We were awarded a contract on manufacturing the handicapped-accessible homes. It started with an initial contract award of 200 homes, and based on performance, we got a contract renewal for another 200 homes. And just recently, we received another contract for an additional 75 homes.” The homes have anywhere from 700 to 2,000 square feet. The cottage design, complete with front porch, is designed to withstand 150-mile-per-hour winds.

“What we are doing is not just providing shelter to people. Living in our cottages is making a big difference in people’s lives. They feel safe again. We’ve had people tell us that when they were in FEMA trailers, they’d head to Wal-Mart to weather a storm. And another lady told us that now that she’s in a cottage, she can bake again. The FEMA trailers didn’t have ovens. We are meeting a lot of needs besides just shelter.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer S.J. Anderson at andersonwrites@yahoo.com .

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