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Elkhart County Welcomes Monaco Job Infusion

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August 3, 2011 by   Leave a Comment

Indiana’s Elkhart County got the kind of news Tuesday (Aug. 2) that communities dream about, according to a report in the South Bend Tribune.

Navistar International Corp. announced plans to relocate all motor coach manufacturing for Monaco RV LLC from Coburg, Ore., to Wakarusa, creating up to 400 new jobs here by next year.

“We are elated,” said Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

“It’s terrific for the whole region,” said Phil Penn, president and chief executive of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.

The jobs are mostly assembly-line production with employees earning $15 an hour or more, Heiden-Guss said.

Heiden-Guss said there were several reasons why Wakarusa was selected.

“I think Gov. Daniels and Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob have worked very hard for the last couple years on consolidation projects to take place in Indiana because companies clearly, because of the market, are shrinking their product footprint. So when consolidations occur, normally our state is a contender for those projects.”

The logistics of Wakarusa and Elkhart County being so close to the Toll Road was another factor, she said.

“And thirdly, the supplier base and what already exists in Elkhart County as well as within the Michiana region,” she said. “From a cost of doing business, Indiana looks great.”

The fact that the company already employed 251 workers in Wakarusa did not hurt it, either, Heiden-Guss said. “They have a number of structures in Wakarusa that are not currently being used in full capacity,” she said.

Another factor was incentives given by the state of Indiana, which included offering Monaco up to $2.8 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $125,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans, according to figures in a release by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

“It’s a given in today’s society,” Heiden-Guss said. “Anytime you can offset the initial burden of cost for a company, you do what you can.”

Wakarusa’s big break was in stark contrast to places like Coburg where 450 workers will be impacted by the move. Navistar also announced that it would be shutting down Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC operations in Union City, Ind., affecting 225 employees, along with a Chatham, Ontario, truck manufacturing facility that has been idled since June 2009.

“We are trying to make the best use of our capacity and assets,” said Karen Denning, a company spokeswoman.

Tuesday’s announcement comes a little more than three years after Monaco Coach, which eventually went bankrupt with its assets being purchased by Navistar, announced in July 2008 that it was cutting 1,400 from its work force besides the 500 it had cut earlier that year.

Monaco RV, owned by Navistar since 2009, manufactures RVs under brand names Holiday Rambler, Monaco Coach, Beaver, Safari, McKenzie and R-Vision, and utilizes some of the same facilities that Monaco Coach used for years in Wakarusa.

Monaco RV will invest more than $1 million to bring the additional production to Wakarusa.

“These folks live all over the place, they shop all over the place,” Penn said. “We’re a mobile society. It’s good for the whole region.”

 

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