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Elkhart RV Builders are ‘Booming After the Bust’

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October 25, 2017 by   Leave a Comment

The recreational vehicle industry is posting impressive numbers: RV wholesale shipments through August are up 15% compared to the first eight months of 2016, says the RV Industry Association (RVIA). And that means booming business in Elkhart, Ind., where half of all RVs on the road are manufactured, according to local leaders.

Inside INdiana Business reported that the president of one manufacturer in the RV Capital of the World says 2017 “will set an all-time industry record in RV shipments.” 

The ripple effects of the recession in 2008 and 2009 hit like tidal waves in Elkhart County, which gained national notoriety for having the highest unemployment rate in the nation when many RV factories shut down operations.

“It was painful. With such a heavily-concentrated employment base around the RV industry, this whole community and region felt it,” says Grand Design RV President and Chief Executive Officer Don Clark. “It brought us down to our knees. It was the most painful time ever in my 33 years in the business.”

In 2012, when the region was still trying to rebuild post-recession, Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech left a major RV manufacturer to launch “another way of doing business” and formed Middlebury-based Grand Design in Elkhart County.

“Everyone thought we were insane, including my family, and said why in the world would we [start a RV company],” says Clark. “People thought our timing was absolutely terrible.”

Founded in 2013, Grand Design now employs more than 1,000 people at its Middlebury campus. The company is thriving in the RV Capital of the World, where expansion announcements for manufacturers and suppliers are frequent.

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