Lenny Kopowski , Metairie, La. , Director of Government Affairs
2) Background: (Educational/Professional snapshot before entering the factory-built housing arena, at or before the Louisiana Manufactured Housing Association – LMHA).
I graduated from the University of New Orleans with an Undergraduate Degree in Political Science in 1994. Upon graduating I enrolled in Graduate School at U.N.O. and finished with a master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning in 1997. While in school I was a graduate assistant and worked at a local bicycle shop.
3) When and How: (When and how you began with LMHA).
In my second to last semester of Grad school in late 1996, I was having dinner with classmates. Dinner conversation moved on to jobs. One classmate was finishing the program then planning on attending law school. While in grad school he was a legislative aid for a state Representative where he “heard” of a job with LMHA. He was unable to apply due to law school and recommended I pursue the opportunity. I immediately went home and typed up a resume that I promptly delivered to the LMHA address. Consequently, the LMHA received 40 resumes, interviewed 10 and selected me.
4) What are your personal interests or hobbies? How do you like to spend non-work time?
When not enjoying time with my wife, Donna and our two children Evan and Katelyn I compete in competitive road cycling. I took a number of years away from the sport but found my way back 5 years ago. I race as a member of the Midsouth Masters racing team. Masters is a nice way of saying over 40!
Louisiana has a number of manufactured home land lease communities. For those who don’t understand the potential value of leasing the land, while buying the home, what can you tell us that would make sense to a potential manufactured home buyer who hasn’t decided between buying or leasing their land?
I would advise people to examine their circumstances as it relates to work, family and finances. From there the right the right decision usually appears..
6) You’ve been honored with the Jim Moore Excellence in Communications award. For those not familiar with the award, please give us some background and tell us why you were selected.
The award is given annually to a member of the manufactured housing industry that has produced a public relations / advertising piece that promotes our industry. Nominees are submitted by state association Execs and a select committee reviews and chooses a winner.
LMHA Director Steve Duke felt the work I did in a seven minute video titled “Planning for Vibrant Communities” went beyond his Board’s expectations. Fortunately, the select committee agreed.
7) Tell us more about the video project that won you the Jim Moore Excellence in Communications award.
“Planning For Vibrant Communities” was a response to a growing problem I believe has far greater consequence than most industry professionals believe exist. In many local jurisdictions around the Southern United States and beyond, MH is being quietly zoned out of prime residential real estate markets. The reason is over zealous elected officials to the city planning consultants they retain believe MH is a scourge to economic growth and has a negative effect on real estate values. The LMHA Board felt that we needed some course of action to directly address this issue. My response was to create an “informative video” geared to decision makers. We reached out to four professionals – a manufacturer’s architect, a banking exec, an engineer and planning consultant. The piece asked these four professionals questions and allowed the participants to answer freely. The outcome was a wonderful narrative on the key concerns local officials have regarding MH. I highly recommend your readers watch the video and envision how it could be adapted to their states.
8) Your office and members often deal with questions from the media or manufactured home shoppers. What are the 5 common questions or myths about today’s manufactured homes? What are the answers provided in reply to those questions?
We respond to the normal myths – cheap construction, no value retention, brings down the surrounding area. No matter how valid your response is the myths are stronger, they are part of the American lexicon. With that in mind, I believe rather than attempt to change that reporter’s vision – recognize it. Admit there are 30 year old rusted house trailers dotting the countryside. But, have you seen today’s product? Usually, if a sceptic walks in a new well built MH the “vision” begins to change. Fighting stereotypes is an uphill battle. My advice is to welcome the critique and believe in your product’s ability to change the “vision.”
9) Many home shoppers don’t realize manufactured homes can qualify for FHA, VA or USDA loan programs, on much the same rates and terms that conventional housing does. Louisiana has a number of retailers who do a good job of promoting mortgage loans as well as personal property or “chattel” loans. For readers new to manufactured housing, please briefly explain both kinds of lending and why each has its advantages.
Louisiana has a very robust lending market where all types of lending products are used. For example, Louisiana is #2 in America for manufactured housing USDA Rural Development loans. But, for some people their circumstances dictate different paths to homeownership. Traditional mortgages are where a consumer borrows money to purchase a home and land then repays the loan over many years with interest until that person owns that property free and clear. A “chattel” loan is where a “movable” piece of property, in this case a manufactured home, is used as security in the loan.
10) Let’s talk breakfast! Where have you been that you like to go for breakfast that you recommend to your friends? What did you enjoy about the place and what is your favorite breakfast there?
You would think that living in New Orleans I would have some fancy french restaurant named my favorite. But, my favorite breakfast is any restaurant where my wife and I can get away alone for an early meal. Though if I had to pick I would say the last MHI meeting in Carlsbad , Ca. La Costa Resort was spectacular!
11) Associations such as the Louisiana Manufactured Housing Association often have a code of professional conduct. What can you tell us about that and what advantages, if any, are there to potential home shoppers to check out retailers, communities and other product/service suppliers of an association like yours?
I believe it would serve consumers in any state to shop reputable establishments. Usually, those business’ active in their state associations lend some sense of value to customer confidence.
12) Any closing thoughts, Sir?
I don’t get to say this too often but, I want to say thank you. For 17 years I have worked with great people, made so many friends doing great things and for that I will be eternally grateful.