The RV industry is on its way back in Indiana, and Elkhart County has a lot to do with it.
According to a Goshen News report, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made a brief appearance in Middlebury Thursday (April 18) afternoon to help celebrate the recent expansion plans of up-and-coming RV manufacturer Grand Design RV LLC.
Surrounded by Grand Design executives, employees, team members, suppliers and their family members, Grand Design President and co-owner Don Clark announced that in the next 60 days the company plans to launch its second line of RVs — a launch which could potentially bring as many as 120 new jobs to the county.
Started by RV veterans Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech in late 2012, Grand Design’s first RV unit, the extended-stay fifth-wheel known as the “Solitude,” rolled off the line on Jan. 15 to rave reviews.
“Our entry into the marketplace, the “Solitude,” has been very well received by the retail buyers — so well received that I am pleased to announce that in the next 60 days we will begin manning and staffing for Line 2,” Clark said. “Our Line 2 will produce a smaller, mid-profile fifth-wheel. After the ramping up stage of Line 2, we intend to bring approximately 120 more jobs to the community. These are exciting times for Grand Design.”
Clark told RVBUSINESS.com that Grand Design currently has 87 U.S. dealers selling the Solitude line. “As production keeps up, we’re starting to bring more dealers into the fold,” he said, adding that the company had shipped more than 200 units to its dealer body.
Ron Fenech noted, “We’ll add more dealers. You know, maybe by the end of the year, I could see us being at maybe 120 or 130 dealers, and we’ll have three product lines up and running for the 2014 season. That’s probably a pretty accurate projection of where we’re going to be.”
He told RVBUSINESS.com that good timing factored into the company’s growth with the industry on an upswing. “Yeah, I think that dealers are pretty optimistic,” Fenech said. “It’s always a battle. There is tremendous competition. But the timing never worried me. I just felt it was a good time for us because we had a great story to tell and I think we bring something different to the marketplace. We’re benefiting, though, by the fact that the dealers are optimistic and that allows them to make choices a little bit easier.”
According to the Goshen News, Pence termed Grand Design’s expansion plans as “exciting news for all of Indiana as well,” especially when coupled with Grand Design’s recent pledge to bring as many as 500 new jobs to the area by 2016. That’s a pledge the company has to keep if it wants to take advantage of up to $2.85 million in conditional tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants recently provided to the company by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Such tax credits are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives.
“When I was first elected governor, I said we were going to make job creation job one, and today is a great example of how Hoosier entrepreneurs and Hoosier workers are coming together to create new jobs and opportunities and are bringing Indiana back,” Pence said. “Grand Design launched in the fall of 2012 and has been on a tear ever since, with plans to produce more than 1,750 units this year. We appreciate their commitment to quality and to service. This is a great moment for Elkhart County and the RV industry.”
Pence went on to thank the company for its decision to locate its headquarters and manufacturing operations in Indiana and for throwing its support behind the workers of Elkhart County.
“The desire of this company to set up a “Grand Design” here in Middlebury in Elkhart County is a tribute to many things, but it’s mostly to the skill, to the character and the work ethic of the people of Indiana, and particularly of Elkhart County,” Pence said. “We look forward to your continuing and abounding success. You are proving today two things: the Hoosier RV industry is coming back, and Indiana is open for business.”
According to the Goshen News, Elkhart County Council member Dave Hess also had some words of thanks and encouragement for the fledgling RV company during Thursday’s gathering.
“Things have turned the corner, and things are improving in Elkhart County, and I think it’s a real testament to the outlook and the vision of these fine business people we’ve got here, and the fact that they chose Elkhart County not only to locate their industry, but to grow and expand their industry as well,” Hess said. “They could have probably gone anywhere they wanted to, but they chose Elkhart County because of our entrepreneurial spirit, our expertise in the RV business, and most of all, you people standing right out here, the workers in this county. I think it’s because of companies like this that the future of Elkhart County is very bright.”
Clark also anticipates hiring up to 10 more people to work the original line.
“Today is a great example of how Hoosier businesses and Hoosier workers are coming together to create new jobs and opportunities and are bringing Indiana back but it’s companies like this that are making it happen,” Pence says.
Anyone interested in one of the new positions all you have to do is stop by Grand Design RV’s office in Middlebury to apply.