While the RV industry is more than just Indiana’s Elkhart County area and Elkhart County is more than just RVs, the two are inextricably intertwined.
“If you mention to anybody throughout the United States or Canada, you mention you’re from Elkhart, the first thing they say is, ‘Oh, that’s the RV capital,’” said Darryl Searer, head of the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
As reported by The Elkhart Truth, while the recession hit this area hard because of the discretionary nature of RVs, even as it shrank the industry shored up its position in Elkhart. Today, 83% of RVs made in North America are made in this area, said Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Elkhart’s a very important area, as you know,” Coon said.
The share of production of RVs on the West Coast dropped off significantly in favor of production here, where the industry really grew over the decades.
“I wasn’t around when it started, but from what I understand it’s mainly centered around that area because of the Amish population which brings a strong amount of craftsmanship. It was a good place to be,” Coon said.
Jayco Inc., a home-grown RV success story, started in Middlebury and is still there.
“I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be than right here in Middlebury, Ind., Elkhart County, Ind., for home,” said Derald Bontrager, CEO of the company his father started.
“I think one of the more important things for us and the reason we stay put here is the workforce is second to none, in my mind, anywhere in the country. Just loyal, hardworking, consistent, honest. I could go on and on. They’re just a great work force we’ve been blessed with,” he said.
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