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Elkhart County EDC Recaps 2010 Progress

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January 7, 2011 by   Leave a Comment

Dorinda Heiden-Guss

Dorinda Heiden-Guss

Editor’s Note: Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, recently issued the EDC’s year-end report for 2010. Excerpts from that report follow.image001 For a copy of the entire report, contact the EDC at (574) 535-1002 or visit www.elkhartcountybiz.com.

Current Trends

This has been a very interesting year. Last year the EDC of Elkhart County was hearing from manufacturers they were increasing their expectations of growth by about 20%, but the EDC of Elkhart County is now hearing most of the companies are doing better. RV related suppliers have rebounded to about 50% of their pre-economic collapse levels. Non-RV related suppliers are performing nearly as well. Trends indicate 2011 and 2012 will be similar with regard to towable RVs and relatively flat in the transit and shuttle bus market. We are also hearing specialty vehicle manufacturing should increase rather dramatically.

Outside of the OEM RV cluster, our supplier chain manufacturers are struggling to staff up to meet increased demand for their products.

  • Second shifts are not being filled.
  • Overtime has greatly increased.
  • Entry level positions are difficult to fill.
  • Companies are holding off on capital investments and increases to their capacity.

Shuttle and Transit Buses

We have visited with many transit bus manufacturers and the supplier chain businesses supporting them. 70% of all shuttle buses and 85% of all transit buses are made in Elkhart County, so our conversations should be circling around how we can better support this component of our economy. Inbound raw materials and outbound bus logistics are two areas on which to start.

Logistics

Logistics is becoming a constant talking point with our Elkhart County manufacturing base. The recession took out many of the independent trucking companies leaving gaping holes in our logistics network. The EDC of Elkhart County has been in discussions with the rail companies about reducing the cost of shipping, thereby closing some of these gaps.

We have a mass volume of traffic each week. As an example, just think of all the fifth-wheels, towables, transit buses, utility trucks, specialty vehicles, ambulances, utility trailers and boats we build each week. If we could somehow look at this market from a collective perspective and negotiate shipping rates on the combined volumes, we could have a major impact on operating costs for our manufacturers.

Elkhart County Market place Logistics Inquiries

The EDC had 66 inquiries in the first three quarters of 2010. The breakdown by industry was:

  • Manufacturing, 58%.
  • Unknown, 27%.
  • Energy, 8%.
  • Distribution/Warehouse, 3%.
  • Food Processing, 2%.
  • Information Technology, 2%.
  • Agriculture, 2%.

All companies looking to expand or move to Elkhart County look at certain amenities of our location or building opportunities which they feel are critical to their business. The most common ones are listed.

  • Docks, 28%.
  • Rail, 25%.
  • Toll Road/Highway, 25%.
  • Cranes, 9%.
  • High Capacity Electrical, 4%.
  • Airport, 4%.
  • High Capacity Floor Load, 3%.
  • Foreign Trade Zone, 1%.

Processes moving back to U.S. from China, Asia, India and Mexico

We are seeing quite a bit of activity surrounding Elkhart County manufacturers wanting to move purchasing and processes back to the United States. What we are hearing is there are several good reasons to do this.

  • Problems in the “just in time” concept are being realized. Too many suppliers were either severely damaged or eliminated altogether due to recent worldwide economic troubles. Inventory was stuck in transport. Cost of supplies rose and lead times lengthened. A new concept seems to be brewing, circling around some shared financial exposure and consideration for total cost vs. front end cost.
  • Falling value of the dollar.
  • Rising energy costs.
  • Rising labor costs in traditional low-labor-rate countries.
  • General fear of the instability in the Asian financial markets.
  • Increasing capabilities and customization.

This move back is only an emerging trend, and only in certain industries; it is not widespread or universal.

Tax Incentives

There were 13 tax phase-in incentives made in Elkhart County in 2010.

Total new investment in the county was $96 million.

Total number of new full-time jobs was 1,765.

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