Leadership Profile: Greg Katt
Executive Director, Camp Michigan
How did you become involved in the campground industry?
My dad owned a family insurance agency. I worked with him at the agency for about 20 years. We specialized in campgrounds. I probably insured 170 parks in Michigan and a few in Indiana and a few in Ohio. After he sold the agency, I joined Camp Michigan as Executive Director since I already knew many of the people in the industry. That was two-and-a-half years ago.
What’s your favorite part of camping?
We live in Michigan! It is one of the most beautiful states with our beaches, lakes and streams! There isn’t anything better than a good cup of coffee in the morning, taking in the sun, seeing the sights and relaxing with the beverage of choice in the evening.
What are your goals for Camp Michigan this year?
Probably our biggest goal is to continue to work on our new website that we launched. On the consumer side, we want to get the search options down to make it easy to find our member parks. On the member side, we want to create a functional member portal for easy access to information. Our other goal would be to reach out to our members and non-members and let them know what the membership benefits are. There are many! We need to present the benefits in a better way!
Which membership benefits, in particular, do you emphasize to them?
Many of our park owners are in the association for the directory, which is great, but I think some of the bigger benefits are the legislative efforts and the networking and education. I would suggest that membership is worth it just for the legislative or the networking benefits alone. The directory, savings programs and education programs are a bonus.
On legislation, we have Scott Everett working with our state association and Jeff Sims (ARVC’s senior director of state relations and program advocacy) working on a national level. These guys watch our backs by reviewing every bill and other legislation that could impact our industry. Legislators know that somebody is watching, so they won’t be able to sneak a piece of legislation through. And then there are all of the networking opportunities and the educational programs and webinars ARVC comes up with, which are fabulous. We have all of these webinars that members can plug into.
Camp Michigan recently hosted its annual conference and expo. How did it go?
From what I heard, we were the first face-to-face conference held in Michigan since the pandemic from pretty much all industries. And I believe we were the fourth state campground association to host one. There were still a few apprehensive people that weren’t quite ready to come, but I feel the majority of the people were ready to meet face-to-face. Our goal was to have the same attendance that we did in 2019, and we matched that attendance on the campground attendee side.
What were some of the main topics of discussion?
We had a panel of campground owners that discussed what they tried during the pandemic and what worked and what didn’t work. One of the most interesting pieces of that discussion was what they learned from it, such as new efficiencies, that they are going to carry forward. We have such innovative people in our industry. They just keep trying and trying until things work. We had an arborist, Gary Eichen from SAVATree, come in and talk to us about taking care of our trees because they’re such an asset. He talked about oak wilt (a tree disease). We also had motivational speaker Tony Rubleski, our keynote speaker, come talk about attitude and how to positively disrupt and upshift your thinking. Toward the end of the season, our campground owners get worn out and keeping positive can help them get through the season, so I think his message is very powerful. We also had a presentation from our Platinum sponsor on the benefits of a reservation system.
How would you sum up the advantages of a campground owner belonging to their state and national associations?
Membership in your state association is an investment! It is an investment in the things they can learn and the intangible savings that they get from learning how to do things better that don’t necessarily show on a spreadsheet. It’s about helping them become a better park owner and capitalize on it, whether it’s how to treat your customers better, how to deal with bad situations and resolve them or how to fix a water problem. There are just so many good things they can learn from the networking and the educational programs. If you join ARVC Michigan, you automatically become a member of ARVC national, since we’re a 100 percent fully participating state, so you basically get the benefit of two associations in one. When you take very good and very good and put them together, you get great.