Tim Victory is joining Goshen, Ind.-based Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.’s sales team, according to Nate Goldenberg, general manager of the builder’s Denali, Voltage and Rubicon product lines.
Victory will represent the Denali, Voltage and Rubicon products in the southeastern and central U.S. as well as central Canada, according to a press release. Previously, Victory, a resident of Chelsea, Okla., was the general manager of one of the largest RV dealerships in Oklahoma.
“We are very excited about having Tim join our team,” said Goldenberg. “His vast experience on the retail side of the business will be an incredible asset to his dealers. He is an excellent product trainer and understands the complexities of running an RV dealership. Tim will work tirelessly to make sure that Denali, Voltage and Rubicon will retail quickly and be profitably for his dealers.”
“I jumped at the opportunity to join Dutchmen,” added Victory. “It’s a strong and progressive company. The brands are innovative and offer the most features and value for the price point than any other brands in the industry. I am looking forward to helping my dealers be successful with Denali, Voltage and Rubicon.”
A division of Jackson Center, Ohio-based Thor Industries Inc., Dutchmen RV produces several brands of towable recreational vehicles that are sold throughout the United States and Canada, including the Denali, Komfort, Infinity, Aspen Trail, Kodiak, Voltage, Rubicon, Aerolite, Coleman and Dutchmen nameplates.
If a recession usually affects the RV industry first, this sector should also be the first to improve when the economy bounces back, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. But that is exactly what Elkhart County residents in northern Indiana saw in the final months of 2009 — a glimmer of hope that the worst is over, after some RV makers announced they will begin hiring again to keep up with an uptick in sales, according to the South Bend Tribune.
Still, the process of pulling out of the recession will likely be slow and protracted across the region.
Area unemployment — after peaking in early 2009 — should begin to stabilize in the early part of the year, although some early 2010 job losses are probable as some businesses continue adjusting to the weak economy.
“Confidence in the economy should improve in 2010, though many will remain concerned about employment, particularly earlier in the new year,” said Grant Black, assistant director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at Indiana University South Bend.
A full financial recovery could take several years here and nationwide, but the generally improving financial markets will help confidence rebound in the months ahead, Black said.
“As a result of bolstered confidence, signs of recovery, and continued low interest rates,” he said, “consumer spending should increase — though not as strongly as desired, which will boost demand to some degree in many markets.”
Unemployment rises, starts to fall
What a difference a year makes. In early 2008, Elkhart County’s unemployment rate was less than 5%. In early 2009, it was the highest in the country at nearly 20%, largely because of stagnant recreational vehicle sales.
A number of companies, including RV makers Keystone RV Co., Jayco Inc. and Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., announced layoffs during the first half of 2009. Robert Bosch and K&M Machine-Fabricating laid off workers, while Patriot Homes and the South Bend Mohawk Flush Doors unit closed.
AM General announced layoffs toward year-end, but more companies began hiring as 2009 came to a close.
Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC announced in November that it would hire 400 people, while Keystone planned to hire 100 people heading into 2010. AM General is expected to begin producing taxis this year in Mishawaka, and Navistar International Inc. plans to commence electric truck production in Wakarusa.
In the community of Middlebury, Ind., just about everyone knows someone who is been laid off from work in the RV industry.
“My dad was,” said Krysten Mishler. “His hours were cut and then he was completely laid off, and I know it was really hard for them.”
But now things were picking up, according to WSBT-TV, South Bend. Mishler’s dad once again has a job in an RV factory, and he is far from alone. Since last summer, Jayco has recalled or hired more than 200 workers, and this week Derald Bontrager, the company’s president and chief operating officer, announced Jayco is increasing production rates as a result of “higher than anticipated levels of incoming orders.”
“As a result of improving market conditions, lower dealer inventories, and retail incentives provided to dealers, Jayco needs to significantly increase our output in order to meet rising demand for our products,” said Bontrager.
Last spring, the company was producing approximately 75 RVs a day. Today, company officials estimated it to be about 130.
“We went from wondering how we were going to keep people busy these couple of months here, especially November and December, to a sudden turnaround of ‘how are were going to get them all built?’” said Jayco line supervisor Devon Miller. “It’s definitely a bit of good news.”
And Jayco isn’t the only manufacturer to see light at the end of the tunnel. In August, Dutchman Manufacturing Inc. in Goshen announced it was ready to hire 50 more workers.
Last week, Cozy Traveler in Elkhart said it would be hiring to keep up with demand for lightweight RVs.
Sales were up 13% industrywide for the second month in a row compared to the same time last year. The industry expects a 27% jump in shipments for 2010. And while that’s positive news after a devastating year, Bontrager said he’s not ready to strike up the whole band just yet.
“We certainly are aware both nationally and globally that the economy isn’t on really solid footing yet in many areas, so there are some unknowns out ahead of them, and I think some things we have to work through,” he said.
But locals say the increasing demand is a great start.
“It’s a beginning,” said Sandy Harter, who lives in Middlebury. “We’re hopeful.”