Elkhart Co. Continuing Diversification Efforts

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June 16, 2014 by   Comments Off on Elkhart Co. Continuing Diversification Efforts

The RV industry in Indiana’s Elkhart County appears to be bouncing back. According to the recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), April shipment numbers are the highest they’ve been for that month in seven years. RV companies are putting hundreds of people back to work, but are those employees being set up to fail in another recession?

WSBT, South Bend, reported that economists say the answer is a tricky one. Everyone agrees the county must diversify its marketplace in order to prevent another devastating blow to the county’s economy. But doing that isn’t easy.

As Baziel Vrient cut the ribbon at his biotech firm’s new address on County Road 1 Friday (June 13), he couldn’t help but reflect on how he got there.

“Today marks a big transition. This is a second-generation company, planned to be a third,” he said. “[The RV industry] was a great industry when you were there but when the industry went kerplunk, there was really no need to have a quota production manager or plant manager. You’re the first ones to go.”

Vrient worked in the RV industry right out of high school but lost his job when the economy tanked in the 70s.

“I ended up going back about ’83,” he said. “I ended up working about four or five years for it and I said, ‘No, this is enough.’”

That’s when he went to work at Agdia – the company his mom and step-dad started. It tests plants around the world for pathogens to make sure the food we eat is safe.

The company’s been in business in Elkhart County since 1981 and is one example of the county’s diverse marketplace.

“They tend not to be noticed because they’re smaller than the RV industry,” said Greater Elkhart Chamber President Kyle Hannon.

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