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GE Capital, ‘Slate.com’ Showcasing Elkhart Co.

July 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A high-profile spotlight on Elkhart County Ind.’s economic growth in Slate.com accelerates the momentum the county has enjoyed since the depths of the recession, says Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

The South Bend Tribune reported that in addition to its own package of features in the online magazine, Elkhart County is home base for the GE Capital and Slate “Roadshow for Growth” national tour aimed at highlighting often-overlooked middle market businesses that play a vital role in the national economy.

The bus/RV for the trip that will visit dozens of cities by October is housed at Forest River Inc., where it was made, and the tour included visits to Forest River, Bennington Pontoon Boats and the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

The package at roadshow.slate.com/tag/elkhart includes an infographic “Meet the RV Capital of the World”; “RV Industry Keeps Elkhart Rolling”; and an interview with Bennington Pontoon Boats CEO Steve Vogel, “How Do You Sell Pontoon Boats During a Recession?”

That national exposure adds another wave of good news in the county, called the “white-hot center of the economic meltdown” in 2008. Last year, Elkhart County led the nation in job growth, with a jump of 7.4% in employment compared with a national average of 1.9%.

“I would say that the significant robust activity has really positioned Elkhart County for continued growth for quite some time,” Heiden-Guss says. “It’s the RV industry that has saved us through these challenging economic hurdles by their speedy recovery.

To read the entire article click here.

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Report: Elkhart Co. Posts Growth Surge in ’11

March 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Recent figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that Elkhart County continued its significant growth in 2011, with total output and exports both surging ahead of their 2009 recession troughs.

As reported by The Elkhart Truth, the area is also expected to lead continued growth once 2012’s numbers are released, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ most recent U.S. Metro Economies report. This area was one of five listed in the report expected to lead the way.

Exports for the Elkhart-Goshen metro statistical area were just shy of $1.04 billion in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. In 2011, the latest year available, that had risen to more than $1.55 billion, putting the area between Rockford, Ill., and Bellingham, Wash., in about the top third of all U.S. metro areas for 2011. Elkhart County was well ahead of the Fort Wayne area ($1.28 billion), but below the South Bend-Mishawaka area ($2.1 billion).

To read the entire article click here.

 

 

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RVs, Elkhart Co. Foster Longtime Partnership

March 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

To read the entire article click here.

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Elkhart Co. Suppliers Expand to Meet Demand

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an article appearing in a special Business & Industry Magazine published by The Elkhart Truth, which serves the RV industry’s hub in Indiana’s Elkhart County. To read the entire article click here.

Many started as suppliers dedicated only to the recreational vehicle industry. Others simply reached over to Elkhart County, extending their already growing business.

RV suppliers are diverse and they’re also growing in Elkhart County, bringing more jobs to the area.

As Jarod Lippert, director of marketing for Lippert Components Inc. would put it, the list of items supplied by various companies based in Elkhart County, including his Goshen-based firm, is long.

At Lippert Components, the list includes chassis, windows, axles, suspensions, hydraulics and furniture. Though the RV companies are its biggest clients, Lippert Components has its share of companies that are not in the RV industry it does business with, including housing and the truck, trailer and transit industries, said Lippert.

Established in Michigan in 1956 as a small steel fabrication shop, Lippert Components is now a subsidiary owned by Drew Industries Inc., which reported in its 2011 annual report that the RV products segment accounted for 84% of its consolidated net sales. Drew Industries’ other subsidiary is Kinro Inc., a company that, like Lippert Components, has corporate offices in Goshen.

Lippert Components has more than 5,300 employees, 34 facilities and more than 3 million square feet in manufacturing base, Lippert said.

But smaller companies are also growing exponentially in this county. Genesis Products Inc., a woods manufacturer for RV, kitchen and furniture industries, announced Feb. 4 its plans to expand operations in Elkhart County, creating up to 100 new jobs by 2016.

To read the entire article click here.

 

 

 

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Elkhart Mayor Holding Economic Summit Today

October 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Elkhart, Ind., Mayor Dick Moore will be hosting the fourth annual Elkhart Economic Development Summit today (Oct. 24) at the Lerner Crystal Ballroom from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

According to a press release, the Summit brings together business, community, and government leaders from throughout the city of Elkhart, Elkhart County and the Michiana region.

The keynote speaker will be Aaron M. Renn, who oversees “The Urbanophile.” Renn is an opinion-leading urban affairs analyst, entrepreneur, speaker and writer on “a mission to help America’s cities thrive in the 21st century.”

The agenda will also include: Robert Bach, national director, market analytics, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; Greg Vollmer, president & CEO, Northern Indiana Workforce Board; Tim Braun, entrepreneur in residence, Elevate Ventures; Brian Wiebe, director, Horizon Education Alliance; Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president, Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County; and Shawn Peterson, president, Corporate Partnership for Economic Growth.

 

 

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Open House Projects an ‘Industry on the Mend’

September 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Dealers enjoy casino night at Gulf Stream's opening night party

Elkhart County’s 5th Annual RV Open House Week appears to be taking yet another step forward as a legitimate national industry trade event, judging by the number of companies and the expanded array of new model year RVs on display Monday (Sept. 17) prior to the more earnest Open House kickoff on Tuesday morning.

All in all, it was a pretty positive picture in the RV-building center of Elkhart, Ind., offering another vignette of an industry that clearly continues its gradual but consistent comeback from the recent global downturn.

From the RV/MH Hall of Fame, where Thor Industries Inc. was ready to begin hosting dealers with a divisional layout of more than 300 units, to Forest River Inc.’s already busy displays at its Dynamax facility on County Road 6, companies were coordinating sales staffs and fine tuning displays on Monday that, again, were clearly larger, more detailed and, in some cases, more professional than those of previous years.

The industrial park drive into the Hall of Fame has literally exploded with displays. Several companies, including Howe, Ind.-based DRV LLC and its sister division Cruiser RV LLC, Wakarusa, Ind.-based Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles LLC and Middlebury, Ind.-based EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC and its divisional sibling LIFESTYLE Luxury RV, have set up shop in a big way on land opened up for the week by cooperative developers – all of those virtually paving the way into competitor Thor’s impressive, mulch-covered exhibit area.

Across the street on the northwest corner of County Roads 17 and 6, is a highly visible display set up by new manufacturing entrant Augusta RV, a fledgling towable builder that started up in January in Bristol, Ind.

Down C.R. 6 at KZRV LP’s display, with the company’s senior management in place and the soft drinks already chilled, is an array of new SportTrek towables from KZ’s new Venture RV division founded in July and headquartered in Shipshewana.

Newcomer Augusta RV showcases its new travel trailer

Farther to the west on Monday, Open Range RV Inc. unveiled its 10,000th unit to a small gathering of local and industry press while a steady flow of U.S. and Canadian dealers were already showing up at the doors of area supplier like Lexington Corp., Lippert Components Inc. and Coast Distributions Systems Inc., which was serving the area’s popular Nelson’s Golden-Glo chicken and a few libations to a good crowd of dealers at the company’s Husky towing products Technical Center on C.R. 17.

At Gulf Stream Coach Inc.’s opening casino night party, Chef Stanley’s sumptuous shrimp was a hit with an SRO dinner crowd that included an appearance by Olympic gold medalist diver David Boudia and served as yet another example of just how much this industry is on the mend.

As Gulf Stream’s President Dan Shea pointed out during his company’s opening night soiree, life is pretty good right now for the towable RV manufacturing company, just as it is for an array of other companies.

That’s the picture that most of us will probably take away from this year’s Open House.

“Yeah, it’s been very good this year,” Shea told RVBUSINESS.com. “We’ve established relationships with a number of new dealers and introduced a number of new products – particularly here at the Open House – that are going over very well and we’re looking forward to a great year next year.”

 

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Whirlwind of Open House Activity Starts Today

September 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The bulk of Elkhart County RV Open House Week in northern Indiana doesn’t start until today (Sept. 18), but Monday’s early events had manufacturers hopeful for a good week as hundreds of RV dealers from around the U.S. and Canada came to the area.

The Elkhart Truth reported that in addition to the tourism boost, increased dealer attendance means increased dealer interest. That, in turn, likely means increased dealer orders, which is good for the local economy.

“This is a good little pump in the arm for the community, no question,” said Paul Campbell of Gulf Stream Coach Inc. as dealers walked by, checking out roughly 50 units on display Monday afternoon at the company’s Nappanee headquarters.

“We’re surprised at the interest and the number of people who are here. We’re gratified there have been hundreds,” Campbell said. Hundreds showed up Monday, and thousands will stop through the displays along County Road 6 in Elkhart through Thursday, according to registrations received by Forest River Inc. and Thor Industries Inc., the biggest manufacturers.

At Gulf Stream, dealers looked at new features like a slide-out that greatly expands bathroom space, or a new cover for slideout sections, one developed by Lippert Components Inc. A group of dealers checked out the new feature, offering critiques and concerns about whether the black color might warm up the interiors for their customers.

To read the entire article click here.

 

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Elkhart County Open House Welcomes Dealers

September 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The self-styled “Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World” will have that title showcased this week as thousands of dealers from across the region converge on Elkhart County for the 5th Annual RV Open House.

The Goshen News reported that the Open House, originally begun five years ago by RV manufacturer Forest River Inc. as a smaller, company-only event, has since grown to include nearly every RV builder in the area in what has become one of the biggest centralized RV sales events of its kind.

Beginning Tuesday and running through Thursday, the RV Open House is strictly reserved for dealers in most cases and generally not open to the public. Instead, the event focuses primarily on giving dealers their first real look at all the new and improved offerings from area RV manufacturers that may grace their showroom floors in the coming year.

Among those with plans to participate in the event this year is RV manufacturing giant Thor Industries, whose displays will be located exclusively on the property of Elkhart’s RV Hall of Fame.

“We have over 300 units at the RV Hall of Fame,” said Bob Martin, president and chief operating officer of Thor Industries. “We have products from all of our divisions: Keystone, Dutchmen, CrossRoads, Heartland, Airstream and Thor Motorcoach. So we’ll have separate displays for each of those and then one larger Thor Industries display.”

To read the entire article click here.

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Elkhart County’s Unemployment Ticks Up to 9%

August 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The unemployment rate in Indiana’s Elkhart County continued rising in July, while the state’s jobless rate held steady.

The Elkhart Truth reported that Elkhart County’s rate rose to 9%, up from 8.9% in June and 8.6% in May, according to numbers released by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Elkhart County is the RV industry’s manufacturing center.

Indiana’s non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate stayed at 8.3% in July, the same as June, according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The seasonally adjusted numbers showed the state rising from June’s 8% to 8.2% in July, still below the national 8.3% average.

The city of Elkhart’s unemployment rate inched upward to 11% from June’s 10.9%, and Goshen’s rose from 8.5% in June to 8.9% in July, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The actual number of unemployed people in Goshen rose by 44, according to Workforce Development, while 17 more people were unemployed in Elkhart.

To read the entire article click here.

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Editorial: Elkhart Co. Fulfilling ‘First Out’ Adage

July 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The following is an editorial published in the Goshen News, located in Indiana’s Elkhart County, assessing the signs of a rebounding economy in the area.

First in, first out. That used to be the saying about the local recreational vehicle industry’s fortunes during a recession or economic downturn. On a broader sense, that statement can be applied to all of Elkhart County’s industry, as the county remains one of the strongest manufacturing areas in the country.

Last week, Wall Street investors looked for other investment options when they learned the national unemployment rate for June was stuck at 8.2%. That number reflected that 80,000 jobs were created nationwide in June, a number not large enough to budge the national jobless percentage.

Yet here in Elkhart County, where the unemployment rate was 8.6% in May, we have added thousands of jobs since the first of the year. As we reported June 24, the county has gained 9,900 jobs since January. Most of these jobs appear to be newly-created — that is, jobs that are needed to meet increased production in the recreational vehicle industry, the custom vehicle industry and the host of job shops and speciality manufacturers scattered across the county.

Evidence for this is that Wieland Designs, a Goshen company that makes seat covers for the aircraft, automotive and furniture industries, needs more workers to fill the growing demand for its products. Also, Monaco RV in Wakarusa is seeking hundreds of workers to fill jobs that were moved to Elkhart County when the company closed its Coburg, Ore. facility. And now Utilimaster in Wakarusa, which manufacturers specialty bodies for delivery vans, will hold a job fair in an attempt to lure about 100 workers to the company to fill openings. And there are several more companies in the county also seeking workers.

These are all good signs that the local economy is beginning to heal to a pre-recession level. We know that the latest unemployment rate for the county was 8.6% in May, but that sure beats the 18% number the county had during the recession.

So there is good economic news here in Elkhart County. And we hope that the adage that we are “first out” of an economic downturn is becoming true. Because if it is, there are better days ahead for all of America.

 

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