In March of 2009, Indiana’s Elkhart County had an unemployment rate that was 20.3% — far higher than the national average of 8.5%. But more than four years later, the numbers in the recovery may be just as stunning.
The South Bend Tribune reported that since 2010, 7,025 jobs have been announced for the Elkhart County economy and more than 4,000 of those have been filled already.
According to statistics from the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County (EDC), the county has been on a pretty steady, if not spectacular, increase for a while.
In addition to the jobs, more than $282 million in investment has been announced since 2010.
There are a lot of reasons for the rebound of one of the hardest-hit areas in the country during the Great Recession, but many would agree, in Elkhart County, the comeback begins with the work of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.
The entreprenural spirit of Elkhart County is often cited as a key reason for the rebound by Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president and chief executive officer of the EDC of Elkhart County, and Dave Ogle, director of business retention and expansion for the EDC.
But the highly organized efforts of the EDC of Elkhart County also have to be credited, said Gary McPhail, chief financial officer with Lippert Components Inc. and Kinro Manufacturing Inc., subsidiaries of Drew Industries Inc.
In June, Drew moved its corporate headquarters from White Plains, N.Y., to Elkhart, resulting in about six new jobs.
But of greater importance to the Michiana area is that its subsidiaries — Lippert and Kinro — are in the process of adding 500 new jobs that will push Drew’s total employment in the Elkhart County area to 5,300 by 2016.
And Lippert and Kinro project another 300 jobs being added after 2016.
Lippert makes windows, mattresses, upholstered seating, leveling devices, suspension products, slideouts and other accessories for the RV industry as well as components for the manufactured housing industry. Kinro produces doors and windows for the RV and manufactured housing industries.
McPhail said Ogle helped guide the company through the system and made presentations at city and county meetings.
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In 2012, Indiana’s Elkhart County ranked No. 1 in the nation for job growth. While the rest of the country averaged 1.9% growth, Elkhart County experienced a remarkable 7.4%.
WNDU, South Bend, reported that back in July, the county’s manufacturing industry added some 5,479 jobs. But when Elkhart made headlines for its high unemployment years ago, it’s no surprise its recovery is equally notable.
During the the summer organizations like Work One continued to help with job numbers; placing unemployed individuals into new and vacant positions. Additional hiring by individual businesses also contributed to the path toward recovery.
It is well known that Elkhart County’s economy is inextricably linked to the RV industry. When Americans stopped buying RVs at the time of the recession the entire county suffered.
Kip Ellis, vice president of sales and marketing at Atwood Mobile Products in Elkhart said 2013 has been a good year for the entire industry. Atwood is one of the many businesses that manufactures RV components, and as such is dependent on RV sales for its own growth.
Ellis said the recovery didn’t occur in “leaps and bounds,” instead it’s been a gradual five-year process.
Manufacturing in Elkhart County was forced to “wise up” in order to survive. Companies like Atwood have made new investments, slowly hired employees and adjusted to match consumer sentiment.
Over the past few years the economic climate in Elkhart has improved. Businesses are leaner and more efficient. According to the Chamber of Commerce, the task at hand is looking towards creating new types of jobs and figuring out where businesses encounter red tape.
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Editor’s Note: The following is a report by WNDU, South Bend., Ind., on the boom in the RV industry and the impact on Elkhart County. To view the entire article and watch an accompanying video click here.
It’s been a great year for the RV industry. According to a report by WNDU, South Bend, Ind., through the midway point of 2013, RV wholesale shipments tracked by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) climbed to 174,871 units — a 12.8% increase from the same point in 2012.
“We approach every year cautiously optimistic,” said Jeff Runels, vice president of sales for Keystone RV Co. “This year has been a really pleasant surprise, we thought coming out of last year — which was, again, a pleasant surprise — we might level off.”
Beyond the numbers themselves is an economic impact that runs deep in Michiana.
Elkhart County produces about 80% of all RVs made in the United States. Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Council of Elkhart County, explained that some 30 RV manufacturers have their corporate headquarters based out of Elkhart County, as do more than 100 industry suppliers.
Runels said that as Keystone sees prolonged increases in sales it starts to increase numbers of employees and subsequently its manufacturing output. The Goshen-based builder, like most other RV manufacturers, saw across the board increases in product demand – from smaller, entry-level units, to the larger and more upscale units.
“When you get a year like this, when you do have that uptick in sales it allows you to really analyze where that uptick is and try to take advantage of those new spots, those new buyers.” According to Runels, they actively watch and see what new buyers are interested in so they can accommodate those interests. That’s why in 2012 and the beginning of 2013 Keystone was able to add several new models.
Runels added that the company almost restored its employment to pre-recession levels by the end of 2012, but thanks to the added boom, they’ve reached almost record levels this year.
To view the entire article and view the video click here.
The Goshen City Council became the first governmental body in Elkhart County to adopt a uniform policy for tax phase-ins when it passed the ordinance Tuesday night (May 21).
As reported by The Elkhart Truth, the Elkhart County Intergovernmental Forum recommended governing bodies within the county to work toward establishing a policy and standards regarding property tax abatements and applications.
Tuesday was the first time the policy went before a governing body for consideration, but the policy will be reviewed in the near future in Elkhart, Nappanee and other towns and cities in the area.
Mark Brinson, the director of Goshen’s Community Development Department, said there were three goals in setting up a county-wide policy for tax phase-ins.
The overarching goal was to deal with abatements in a uniform way that would feature a single application, fee structure and general policy.
The second goal was to make sure tax increment financing (TIF) revenues were not negatively affected.
“TIF revenues are becoming more and more important as a way of funding infrastructure and we look at that as economic development in Elkhart County,” Brinson explained.
To read the entire article in The Elkhart Truth click here.
Indiana’s Elkhart County led the nation in job growth between September 2011 and September 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday (March 28).
“Elkhart, Ind., had the largest percentage increase in employment (6.9%) among the largest U.S. counties,” according to Thursday’s announcement. The national growth rate was 1.6%.
The Elkhart Truth reported that manufacturing led the way in Elkhart County, gaining 4,734 jobs over that time, a growth of 10.1%, according to the BLS quarterly census of employment and wages. “In Elkhart County, what else but manufacturing,” said Dave Daugherty, president of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce.
Manufacturing has an oversize importance to the economy, and roughly half of Elkhart County manufacturing is related to the recreational vehicle industry. That industry has seen strong growth over the last couple of years.
According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments grew 13.6% in 2012, and they are off to a strong start for this year, with January up 30% over the previous January, and February up 6% over the previous February.
That led to new positions at RV makers — the RVIA estimates 83% of all North American RVs are made in and around Elkhart County — and at RV suppliers.
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A first-ever “RV Industry Power Breakfast” featuring a prestigious slate of local and national speakers is scheduled to bring together key elements of the U.S. recreational vehicle industry with an array of area industry people and civic leaders on the morning of May 9 at the Northern Indiana Event Center and RV/MH Hall of Fame in the RV manufacturing hub of Elkhart, Ind., according to an RVBusiness press release.
The inaugural Power Breakfast, kicking off with a 7 a.m. sunrise buffet and 7:45 a.m. program, is facilitated by Elkhart-based RVBusiness magazine and sponsored by Dicor Corp., Dometic Corp., the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, Forest River Inc., GE Capital, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), Spartan Motors Inc. and Thor Industries Inc.
This new event comes at a time when RV builders and suppliers are doing fairly well in terms of national retail sales and wholesale shipments during a post-recessionary era in which about 85% of national shipments are now centered around northern Indiana’s Elkhart and LaGrange counties and an array of smaller area communities like Goshen, LaGrange, Middlebury, Bristol, Wakarusa and Nappanee, the release states.
“Officials from these towns are being personally invited to the event, as are representatives of relevant trade associations like the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the Fairfax, Va.-based RV Dealers Association (RVDA) and the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC) in Indianapolis,” reports BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates in Elkhart and chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee who is in charge of the inaugural Power Breakfast on behalf of RVBusiness.
“There was, speaking on behalf of the RVB staff, a sense that we could all do a better job at times of working together as a cohesive force here in Elkhart to showcase the power and job-building potential of the U.S. RV industry and, at the same time, bring to Elkhart some of the general and industry-specific intelligence that exists in the current economic climate for area industry people to absorb,” stated RVB Publisher Sherm Goldenberg.
Dicor President Gregg Fore and Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert, immediate past chairman and current chair of RVIA, respectively, will share emcee duties at the morning event at which there will be a fast-paced slate of speakers, including a short teleconference with U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), if, in fact, the first-term senator is available with Congress in session.
Two anchor presentations are planned: In the first half, RVIA President Richard Coon, RVIA Vice President of Public Relations & Advertising James Ashurst and RVIA Vice President of Administration Mac Bryan will provide an overview of the industry’s 2012 status and a quick look at 2013’s opportunities and challenges.
In the second half, KOA CEO Jim Rogers, fresh off his January appearance on the CBS hit series “Undercover Boss,” will present some in-your-face feedback from campers who annually visit Montana-based KOA’s 489 U.S. and Canadian parks.
Tickets for the May 9 event are $25 each with tables of eight available for $175. Look for a notice shortly for online registration.
There really were plenty of smiles Thursday (Feb. 7) at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in the crowded Crystal Ballroom at the Lerner Theatre.
And keynote speaker David C. Chavern, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, agreed those smiles were there for good reason.
The South Bend Tribune reported that Chavern toured two Elkhart companies, RV maker Thor Industries Inc. and CTS Corp., before the luncheon. He cited Elkhart as a positive example of the nation’s slow recovery from the recession.
But he added, as has been seen in recent months with numerous job additions in the recreational vehicle sector, it has an advantage.
“They are ahead of the curve,” he said in an interview prior to his speech. “One of the big advantages Elkhart has is a really strong manufacturing base.
“And you are seeing a resurgence in manufacturing in the U.S., and I think Elkhart is benefiting from it.”
To view the entire article click here.
Indiana saw a record-breaking 27,600 new jobs announced over the last year, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., and Elkhart County was a big beneficiary with 2,700 of those jobs.
As reported by The Elkhart Truth, some of those jobs are already here and some will be phased in this year and next. A total of $120 million will be invested in real estate and equipment as part of those jobs announcements, said Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.
The average wage in Elkhart County – home to the RV industry’s manufacturing hub – is about $18.01 an hour, and the local economic development corporation worked on projects paying from $12 an hour to $40 an hour in 2012, Heiden-Guss said. The average on the new jobs is about $20.41, she said.
To view the entire article click here.
The team effort is paying off.
The South Bend Tribune reported that’s the word from Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Indiana’s Elkhart County, after Vista Manufacturing Inc., a lighting manufacturer that services the RV industry, announced plans to expand its operations in Elkhart, creating up to 15 new jobs by 2015.
“It’s wonderful,” Heiden-Guss said. “Our team effort is actually paying off. Our focus has been on existing companies.”
For the last three years, under the direction of Dave Ogle, EDC business retention and expansion director, and Denise Hoke, office manager, the EDC has been visiting with Elkhart County companies and trying to provide value, Heiden-Guss said.
“We’ve been doing it for three years now on a concentrated basis and the benefits are actually becoming evident,” she said.
Vista Manufacturing, which manufactures lighting products, will invest $3 million over three years to build and equip a 34,000-square-foot facility at 53345 Columbia Drive in Elkhart, according to a release from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
The company currently operates out of two buildings in Elkhart; the expansion will consolidate Vista’s current manufacturing and distribution facilities into one building, which will be operational by next year.
“Vista is the latest company to choose Indiana as its centralized production location and that speaks volumes for the global attention our state’s business climate continues to receive,” said Dan Hasler, secretary of commerce and chief executive officer of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. in the release.
To view the entire article click here.
Indiana’s Elkhart County has two problems that most people would expect to fix each other: Unemployment persists above 8%, while at the same time employers are having a harder and harder time filling open positions ranging from technical to basic production.
While there are many thoughts about the problem, there are no clear-cut answers so far, according to a report in the Elkhart Truth.
What’s the problem?
While Elkhart County’s unemployment rate has dropped drastically since the recession, it was still 8.4% in September, well above national and state averages.
Despite that, Mike Hoover, president of KIB Electronics in Elkhart, said it’s getting tougher to hire people. “It’s starting to tighten up a little bit. Up until now we’ve had a really good pool,” he said.
Bill Faubion, director of engineering at the company, said in conversations with their manufacturing director, “A year ago he could sometimes interview five or six people and hire two people. Now they interview 16 to 20 and hire two.”
To read the entire article click here.