Hoosier Agency Aids RV Industry Expansion

May 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Daniel J. Hasler

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) has played a role in the expansion of the RV industry in Elkhart County.

As reported by The Elkhart Truth, in Elkhart County since 2011, the economic development organization has been a part of nine expansions, including Lippert Components and Kinro Manufacturing Inc., Supreme Industries Inc. and Spartan Motors Inc. totaling $31.7 million in new investment and 1,608 new jobs by 2015.

The companies that have grown in Elkhart County 2011 received $9.4 million in performance-based tax credits and $732,500 in training grants from the IEDC.

Daniel J. Hasler, CEO of the state economic development agency, is optimistic that 250 companies will choose Indiana in 2012 to either expand or relocate their operations. He pointed to the high rankings from CEO magazine and the Tax Foundation along with the infrastructure investments funded by Major Moves and the recently passed Right to Work legislation as indicators of Indiana’s ability to appeal to businesses.

Click here to read the entire story.


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Lippert Components Spurs Goshen Job Growth

October 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Lippert Components Manufacturing Inc. and Kinro Manufacturing Inc., subsidiaries of Drew Industries, said Tuesday (Oct. 18) that Goshen and Middlebury in northern Indiana have been chosen as the sites for an expansion of operations by both companies.

The South Bend Tribune reported that Lippert will create up to 100 jobs in Middlebury and up to another 80 in Goshen by 2012. Along with a previously announced expansion in Elkhart, the company will have invested more than $9.3 million in Elkhart County, according to the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

In addition, Kinro products is adding another 30 jobs, Mark Brinson, community development director for Goshen, said, while retaining another 120. The company recently purchased Starquest Products.

But the good news hardly stops there.

On Tuesday night, the Goshen City Council took a step toward approving tax abatements for Benteler Automotive Inc. and GDC Corp., both of Goshen, which would help those companies expand.

Brinson said both abatements are expected to be finalized in two weeks.

When approved, Benteler Automotive will begin its first phase of expansion at a cost of $32.2 million, said Brinson, adding 98 jobs.

The company also has announced long-range plans to add another 80 jobs by 2016 and purchase $22.1 million in equipment while spending another $7 million on construction. Those 80 jobs aren’t even included in the nearly 400 new jobs announced this week.

Brinson also said GDC Corp. of Goshen, also known as Goshen Die Casting, has entered into a joint agreement with Monadnock Non-Woven of Pennsylvania.

It will take over an existing facility in Goshen, where it will spend $5.1 million for equipment and hire 73 people.

“It’s a perfect storm, and this time it’s a good storm,” Brinson said. “We’ve got a lot of good things happening.

“It’s amazing how much activity there is in the Goshen market, and it is fairly evenly split up between the automotive supplier business and the recreational vehicle supplier business.

“Those two are very active industry sectors at the moment.”

Brinson said the teamwork between the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County and the city of Goshen is paying off.

“They’re looking at where the best place is to do business, and it just so happens that we’re on the map as having a great cost of doing business and it’s working out great for Goshen,” Brinson said.

“It’s exactly what economic development is about,” said Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County. “We are excited to see they are existing businesses growing and expanding.”

Lippert Components, a manufacturer of recreational vehicle and manufactured housing components, plans to invest about $650,000 in new machinery and equipment as part of the expansion, according to the state’s release.

Kinro, a manufacturer of windows and doors for the recreational vehicle, manufactured housing and other industries, plans to invest about $3.5 million for the lease of a facility, and the purchase of machinery and equipment for the expanded production line.

“We are extremely pleased to continue to expand the operations of both Lippert Components and Kinro in Indiana,” said Jason Lippert, chairman and chief executive officer of Lippert Components and Kinro, in the release.

The company plans to begin filling the new manufacturing and administrative positions this fall. Lippert Components and Kinro currently operate 31 facilities in 12 states.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Lippert Components Manufacturing Inc. up to $1.55 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $165,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans.

According to the release, Elkhart County and the city of Goshen will consider additional property tax abatement for Lippert at the request of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

Even before these announcements, Elkhart County ranked third in the largest growth of gross domestic product in 2010, Brinson said.

“We all know we’ve had some rough spots in Elkhart County,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of attention as kind of being the poster child for unemployment, but the news lately is anything but that.

“We’ve become kind of the example of growth in manufacturing over the growth that has occurred over the last year,” he said.


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Cruiser RV’s Expanding into Second Factory

September 9, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Company will create 140 jobs.

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Cruiser RV LLC, a lightweight travel trailer manufacturer based in Howe, Ind., has announced that it will expand its operations, creating up to 200 new jobs by 2014.

The company will invest more than $850,000 to lease a 140,000-square-foot LaGrange manufacturing facility, add machinery for a new production line and make infrastructure improvements. The new space is located near its existing manufacturing facility and headquarters in Howe.

“Cruiser RV continues to find new ways to grow and that is why they are leaders in this industry,” said Gov. Mitch Daniels. “Companies that innovate and expand will find no better home to do so than Indiana. We look forward to the opportunities Cruiser RV is creating for themselves and for Hoosier workers.”

Cruiser RV, which currently has 140 full-time Indiana employees, will begin the hiring process for new manufacturing and administrative positions this month. The company plans on commencing production at the facility by the end of the year.

“We simply were busting at the seams in our current Howe, Ind. facility and faced making a big decision,” said Jeff Fought, president of Cruiser RV. “We’ve been a single plant organization since our inception, but we feel this is the logical next step for us. The LaGrange plant will give us the needed flexibility to expand our current product offering, while reducing our lead time during the peak selling season and improving overall product quality. We’re proud to be expanding in LaGrange County.”

Formed in 2003, Cruiser RV has grown from making five trailers a week to making more than 20 a day. The company currently produces four lightweight brands of towable travel trailers: Fun Finder X, ViewFinder, Shadow Cruiser and Fun Finder XTRA toy haulers.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Cruiser RV LLC up to $1,750,000 in performance-based tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans. The town of LaGrange will consider additional tax abatement and tax increment financing (TIF) bonds at the request of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp.

“We are extremely happy to support Cruiser RV as they continue their growth here in LaGrange County,” said Keith Gillenwater, executive director of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation. “The town of LaGrange wants to support this growing company any way we can and we are thrilled that they chose our town in which to locate their second facility.”

Cruiser RV’s announcement comes on the heels of several recent RV manufacturer jobs announcements in northern Indiana. In August, Monaco RV announced plans today to relocate all motorcoach manufacturing operations from Coburg, Ore., to Wakarusa, creating up to 400 new jobs by 2012. Also, Spartan Motors announced plans in June to relocate its Utilimaster RV manufacturing operations from Michigan to Wakarusa, creating up to 60 new jobs by 2012.


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Report: Indiana Top 10 for Business Climate

November 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

November cover

November cover

For the third time in three years, Indiana’s business climate scored a Top 10 finish nationally in Site Selection magazine’s 2010 business climate rankings.

Feedback from a survey of national real estate executives and a review of Indiana’s economic development record earned the state recognition as the eighth best place for business in the U.S., up one spot from ninth in 2009, according to a news release.

Some 70% of all RVs are manufactured in the Hoosier state, primarily in Elkhart County.

The Site Selection ranking, released today (Nov. 2) in the magazine’s November 2010 issue, comes less than one week after the Tax Foundation recognized Indiana for having the best business tax climate in the Midwest and the 10th best overall, up from 12th in 2009. A nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., the Tax Foundation study measures five indexes of states’ business tax competitiveness including property tax rates, sales tax, individual tax, corporate tax and unemployment insurance taxes.

“In tough economic times, it’s important to stand out, and now for the third time in a month, the world is reading that Indiana is among the best places to bring jobs,” said Mitch Roob, secretary of commerce and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

In October, Area Development magazine rated Indiana’s business climate best in the Midwest and sixth best in the U.S., according to a survey of national site selection consultants. The state was also among the consultants’ top-five picks in the rail and highway accessibility (second), labor climate (third), fast-track permitting (fourth), most business friendly (fifth), and lowest business costs (fifth) categories.

Site Selection’s annual business climate rankings are determined in part by performance of the state in Conway Data’s New Plant Database, which tracks new and expanded business facility activity, and also by a survey of corporate site seekers across the country. The survey asked companies to identify the top 10 state business climates, taking into consideration such factors as lack of red tape, financial assistance and government officials’ cooperation. Respondents were also asked to rank the factors most important to them when determining a location for a new facility.

Site Selection’s business climate survey story, as well as the publication’s annual state legislative and incentives update, appears in the November 2010 edition and at

Site Selection magazine, published by Conway Data Inc., delivers expansion planning information to 44,000 executives of fast-growing firms. The senior publication in the development field, Site Selection is also available via Site Selection Online ( SiteNet Dispatch, a weekly e-mail newsletter, goes to more than 41,000 industry professionals.

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Indiana’s Biz Climate Best in the Midwest

October 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Indiana’s business climate is best in the Midwest and the sixth best in the U.S., according to Area Development magazine’s survey of national site selection consultants.

The state was also among the consultants’ top-five picks in the rail and highway accessibility (second), labor climate (third), fast-track permitting (fourth), most business friendly (fifth) and lowest business costs (fifth) categories, according to a news release.

The business climate ranking comes just four months after the corporate site selection and relocation trade publication named Indiana the winner of its 2010 Silver Shovel award in the 5 million to 10 million population category. The Shovel Awards recognize economic development agencies for innovative policies, infrastructure improvements, processes and promotions that attract new employers and investments.

“Indiana’s low-cost, pro-business environment has put us at the top of the list for private-sector job growth this year and now is bringing the state more national attention,” said Mitch Roob, secretary of commerce and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. “We will continue working hard to create the kind of environment that encourages business growth and success.”

The Area Development study is the latest in a series of national accolades the state has scored in economic development. In May, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Chamber Foundation found Indiana to be fourth best in the nation for its business tax and regulatory climate in the organizations’ Enterprising States report. Margaret Spellings, executive vice president of the National Chamber Foundation, visited the state in September to recognize Indiana’s leadership in private-sector job growth this year.

Area Development’s full report is available

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Indiana Will Provide Jobs Data to Legislator

June 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

MitchRoob5_20_10Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob said he will comply with a request from Indiana House Speaker Patrick Bauer to provide detailed information on companies, including several RV companies, that have received tax breaks and other assistance from the state, WIBC, Indianapolis, reported.

Roob said the Indiana Economic Development Corp. will provide the information by June 25.

Bauer, a Democrat from South Bend, made the request after conflicting numbers emerged concerning jobs promised by companies throughout the state and how many have materialized.

Roob told the radio station that companies are not given incentives until they have met their job commitments. Roob also said incentives are not provided until taxes have been collected.

His remarks to our partners at Network Indiana/WIBC follow a letter from Bauer seeking more details.

Several RV companies have received state assistance to expand or remain in Indiana.

In a related development, a national magazine has recognized Indiana for several economic development initiatives. Area Development Magazine has given the state a 2010 Silver Shovel Award for attracting what publishers describe as “high-value investment projects that will create a significant number of new jobs in their communities,” Inside INdiana Business reported.

The top job-creation effort cited by the magazine was the 2009 purchase of the motorized operations of  now defunct Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. by American Industrial Partners/FW Holdings Inc. The $7.4 million investment in Decatur saved 935 jobs.

A $2.4 million expansion by Drew Industries Inc. in Goshen, Ind., creating 225 jobs, was cited as one of 10 top examples of job creation in the state.

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Ind. House Speaker Presses State on Job Figures

June 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Ind. House Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, has sent a letter to Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob asking for information on whether companies have met their job commitments, according to a Bauer news release. A response from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. says an update on the information request will be provided by June 25.

Several of the companies about which Bauer is seeking information are RV firms which received state incentives to expand or remain in the Hoosier state. The list includes Dometic Elkhart, Earthbound RV LLC in Marion and Riverside Travel Trailers Inc. in Peru.

Letter from House Speaker Pat Bauer to Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob

Director Mitch Roob,

In reports to the media in March of 2010, you were quoted as “believing about 87%” of the jobs promised by companies receiving state incentives have actually been created. This, by your own admission, means 13% of the jobs that were promised were not realized. After inspection of the IEDC incentive compliance reports submitted to the General Assembly as required under IC 5-28-28-5, and published on the internet at, my staff was unable to locate any finding of noncompliance in any IEDC compliance report.

Due to this discrepancy, please consider this letter my formal request, pursuant to the Access to Public Records Act (IC 5-14-3), for copies of any records evidencing the noncompliance you self-reported in March of 2010.

I am aware that your agency has refused to release various records relating to job creation incentives in the past. I am also aware that the IEDC has broad discretion under IC 5-14-3-4.5 to keep records relating to incentive negotiations confidential. As you may know K-12 education has been cut by $300 M. Some estimate that as many as 7,000 teachers will lose their jobs, and the state unemployment rate remains around 10%. In these times, I would urge the IEDC to exercise its discretion in favor of sharing vital information with Hoosier taxpayers about Indiana’s true level of job creation success.

In SEA 23-2010, sec. 14, the General Assembly passed a new statute, IC 5-28-28-9, that requires the IEDC, upon request, to make available information specifying each company’s compliance with its incentive agreement. In light of this new legislation, I would request that the following details be left unredacted in any noncompliance records you provide:

  1. The county where each company is or was expected to be located.
  2. Each company’s promised number of new or retained jobs.
  3. Each company’s actual number of new or retain jobs.
  4. Any state incentives each company received in exchange for the company’s job promises.

I thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.


Speaker B. Patrick Bauer

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Jeep Partnership Drives Livin’ Lite’s Expansion

June 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Livin' Lite folding camping trailer it will build in partnership with Chrysler Jeep vehicles.

Livin' Lite folding camping trailer it will build in partnership with Chrysler Jeep vehicles.

Livin’ Lite Corp., maker of ultra lightweight recreational vehicles, announced Tuesday (June 1) it will expand its operations in Wakarusa, ind., creating up to 25 new jobs by 2011.

The company, which manufactures aluminum and composite-built recreational vehicles, will invest $750,000 to expand its existing 35,000 square-foot headquarters to accommodate production of a 1,000-pound camping trailer designed exclusively for Chrysler Jeep vehicles, according to a news release.

“Indiana’s RV producers, old and new, are developing and implementing technologies in their products that are revolutionizing the industry and creating opportunities for our workers,” said Mitch Roob, secretary of commerce and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC)

Founded in 2002, Livin’ Lite has developed more than a dozen different models of specialty automotive campers that can sleep up to six and be towed by passenger cars, minivans and motorcycles. The company will begin hiring production associates in June to coincide with the start of production for the Jeep trailers.

“With more and more consumers trading in their larger vehicles for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, the demand for ultra lightweight campers continues to increase,” said Scott Tuttle, president of Livin’ Lite. “Our all-aluminum and composite campers are a great fit for this next generation of automobiles as they are both ultra lightweight and will stand the test of time. Orders for each of our unique product lines are up, and with the new Jeep project coming later this month, we needed to expand our facilities to accommodate the growth.”

In 2009, Livin’ Lite was selected by the IEDC and its Small Business Development Center network as one of the “50 Indiana Companies to Watch.” The accolade, presented in partnership with Purdue University and the Edward Lowe Foundation, recognizes the state’s privately held businesses that employ up to 150 employees and have between $750,000 and $100 million in annual revenue or working capital.

“There was some pressure to move this project closer to Detroit, but Wakarusa is my hometown and I preferred to cultivate the jobs here,” Tuttle added. “The tax incentive from the state is very much appreciated and I hope that we can do our part by continuing to grow this business and provide quality jobs here in Elkhart County.”

The IEDC offered Livin’ Lite Corp. up to $150,000 in performance-based tax credits. The town of Wakarusa has approved additional property tax abatement at the request of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

“In a community where there has been a loss of jobs, Livin’ Lite’s promise of 25 new jobs is great news and we couldn’t be more pleased,” said Tom Roeder, Wakarusa town manager.

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Expanding Heartland Has ‘Weathered the Storm’

April 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Battered by the recession, there’s more news that Elkhart, Ind., is on the mend, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, a manufacturer of RVs and travel trailers, said late Monday (March 28) it will expand its operations in Elkhart, creating up to 265 new jobs by 2013.

The announcement came in a press release from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, which manufactures fifth-wheel, lightweight and extended-stay RVs, will invest more than $2.6 million to purchase and equip a 125,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, according to the release.

Heartland announced in February that it purchased the remaining trademarks of the towable brands of Fleetwood Enterprises, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, which employs 1,050 people in Elkhart County, plans to begin hiring additional manufacturing and supervisory personnel immediately as the new product lines are phased in.

The acquisition of the former Fleetwood brands will allow Heartland to expand into markets in the western United States.

“Our ability to gain ground in a down market has clearly positioned Heartland to make tremendous market share gains and further grow our dealer body in 2010,” Brian Brady, president and CEO of Heartland Recreational Vehicles, said in the release. “This is shaping up to be the best year in our history.”

Founded in 2003 as a manufacturer of high-end fifth wheel recreational vehicles, Heartland RV has expanded into the mid-profile, lightweight and travel trailer markets. In 2006, the company broke ground on its current 110,000 square-foot Elkhart headquarters.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Heartland RV up to $885,000 in performance-based tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans.

The city of Elkhart will provide additional property tax abatement at the request of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

The abatement amounts to a five-year property tax phase-in, for real and personal property, said Barkley Garrett, economic development manager for the city of Elkhart.

With the phase-in, they will not pay 100% taxes on real and personal property until year six, Garrett said.

The company has committed the 265 additional jobs by mid-2013.

It is not known if those are part of the 400 additional jobs announced in November. Company officials did not return calls to the Tribune.

“It’s a company that has weathered the storm very well,” said Garrett. “They have not been around very long but considering how long they have been around, they are a significant employer.

“They have 1,050 jobs here in Elkhart County, so they are a major player in the city and Elkhart County and also in the RV industry.

“They are a company we certainly want to see stay here and grow here.”

The tax phase-in is expected to get final formal approval at the April 19 city council meeting, Garrett said.

“It’s a good step for Elkhart and Elkhart County,” Garrett added. “We need to take care of our existing companies.”

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Riverside Travel Trailer Announces Expansion

December 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Riverside logoRiverside Travel Trailer Inc., a manufacturer of towable recreational vehicles, announced today (Dec. 2) that it will expand its operations in Peru, Ind., creating 100 new jobs by 2011.

The company, which established its operations in June, will invest more than $1.1 million to purchase new equipment and make upgrades to its 130,000-square-foot facility, which formerly housed Adventure Manufacturing Inc.’s recreational vehicle manufacturing operations, according to a news release.

“We appreciate the commitment that the leaders of Riverside have shown to the Peru community,” said Gov. Mitch Daniels. “We look forward to working with them as they create jobs and contribute to Indiana’s economy.”

Riverside Travel Trailer, which currently employs more than 30 former Adventure Manufacturing associates, plans to continue hiring manufacturing and assembly workers as market conditions allow. The company anticipates doubling its current employment by the second quarter of 2010.

“The RV business is entering into a recovery phase, and it is here to stay. Indiana is the heart of the RV industry and as such it is the place to be,” said Mark Gerber, vice president of sales and finance at Riverside Travel Trailer.

The company, which is currently working to establish a dealer network, shipped its first product in July. At full capacity, Riverside Travel Trailer will be able to manufacture up to 6,000 units annually.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Riverside Travel Trailer Inc. up to $265,000 in performance based tax credits and $45,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. Miami County will provide additional property tax abatement at the request of the Miami County Economic Development Authority.

“Riverside Travel Trailer will provide Miami County much needed jobs. We appreciate the investment of the local owners and their understanding of our commitment to provide them with a quality workforce,” said Greg Deeds, Miami County Commissioner.

Riverside Travel Trailer Inc. manufactures a variety of towable campers and trailers to dealers throughout the United States and Canada. For more information visit

Created by Daniels in 2005 to replace the former Department of Commerce, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is governed by a 12-member board chaired by the governor. Mitch Roob serves as the chief executive officer of the IEDC. For more information about IEDC, visit

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Indiana Honors Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles

August 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


Livin' Lite's Quick Silver trailer

Livin' Lite's Quick Silver trailer

Wakarusa, Ind.-based Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles was named to the second annual Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s list of “50 Companies to Watch.”

The recognition honors the state’s privately held companies that employ up to 150 employees and have between $750,000 and $100 million in annual revenue or working capital.

More than 500 Indiana companies were nominated for the award, according to the IEDC. The chosen businesses in the state include food manufacturers, software developers, financial service firms and makers of medical devices.

The honors are presented by the IEDC, its Small Business Development Center, Purdue University and the Edward Lowe Foundation.

The companies will be recognized Thursday at a dinner and ceremony in Indianapolis.

As reported by the South Bend Tribune Business Weekly, Livin’ Lite manufactures ultra lightweight, automotive campers and aluminum trailers and markets them in North America, Europe and Australia. The company has been in business for six years and has 20 employes, double the number of last year. Sales this year are up 200% from 2008 and on pace to do more than 250% the 2008 level.

In answer to the question, what sparked the formation of the business, owner Scott Tuttle replied, “The need for an affordable, lightweight, family camper that could sleep six and still be towed by small passenger cars. Our campers allow young families to go camping utilizing their current vehicle (they don’t have to purchase a truck or an SUV).”

As for the company’s biggest challenge or opportunity, he replied, “Our biggest opportunity has been the ability to produce such a lightweight, all-aluminum and composite camper, which is affordable and able to be pulled by the smallest automobiles on the market. Our challenge has been educating ‘traditionally minded’ RV dealers that there is a market for such campers. The retail demand is high. Our problem is we don’t have enough dealers yet.”

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Indiana to Help Fleetwood Create 300 Jobs by 2012

August 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels today (Aug. 19) joined executives from recreational vehicle manufacturer Fleetwood RV Inc. to celebrate the company’s plant reopening in Decatur.

Following the sale of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s motorhome division and Goldshield Fiberglass assets to private-equity firm American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV LP in July, the newly established Fleetwood RV has recalled over 600 associates and plans to create an additional 300 jobs at its Decatur headquarters by 2012, according to Inside Indiana Business.

Under the company’s new ownership, Fleetwood RV is consolidating its California and Pennsylvania manufacturing operations to Decatur. Plans call for $7.4 million in new investment toward building improvements, machinery and equipment and retooling. In addition, the company will relocate $8 million in equipment from its out-of-state operations.

This is the latest of several recent business consolidations into Indiana, including Dometic, a manufacturer of recreational vehicle accessories, which is consolidating operations from Sweden and Mexico to Indiana and expanding its facilities in Elkhart and LaGrange counties.

“Indiana is determined to make opportunity from hard times. We’re reaching out to companies like Fleetwood and saying, if you are consolidating, do it in Indiana. Jobs have been coming to Indiana from everywhere,” said Daniels.

Fleetwood RV is currently hiring manufacturing personnel and will continue to make significant staffing additions over the next three years.

“The decision to establish our company headquarters in Decatur was two-fold,” said John Draheim, president of Fleetwood RV. “First and most importantly, was the high-caliber workforce in the area, and the second was the cooperation from the state and city to develop a plan that would be best for the company, the local community and the RV industry as a whole.”

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Fleetwood RV up to $9 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. The Decatur City Council approved additional property tax abatement at the request of the Adams County Economic Development Corp.

“Have no doubt – as mayor, you don’t sleep at night when worrying about people needing jobs but this is a giant leap for us on the way to recovery. We are grateful to Fleetwood RV,” said Decatur Mayor John Schultz.

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Hoosier Governor Praises Dometic for Expansion

August 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (left) and Dometic President Doug Whyte

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (left) and Dometic President Doug Whyte

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels today (Aug. 4) joined executives from Dometic LLC, an international manufacturer of recreational vehicle accessories, and praised the company’s plans to expand its manufacturing operations at two northern Indiana plants, creating more than 350 combined jobs by 2012.

The company, which makes accessories ranging from air conditioners to sanitation systems for the RV market, will invest a combined $10 million to increase production capacity at its Elkhart and LaGrange manufacturing operations. That includes more than $6.8 million to move its refrigerator manufacturing operations from Sweden to a 150,000-square-foot facility in Elkhart, creating 241 new jobs, and $3 million to move production from a plant in Mexico, which was lost to a fire in April, to Dometic’s LaGrange facility, where it will increase manufacturing capacity of retractable RV awnings, creating 116 new jobs.

“We’ve never had a doubt. RVs will be back. Elkhart will be back, and will resume its place as a major center of economic strength for our state,” said Daniels.

The company currently employs 60 workers at its Elkhart operations and plans to begin hiring assembly, welding, maintenance and management associates immediately as the facility is prepared for production launch later in the fall.

“Our growth is a direct result of our product quality and the dedication of our associates. This new RV refrigerator factory in Elkhart allows us to serve over 70% of our customers located within a 50-mile radius,” said Doug Whyte, president of Dometic.

The company will sponsor a jobs fair early next month and plans to begin production by early November, Whyte said.

Daniels made a point that the two expansions were examples of Indiana insourcing jobs from other countries, and that the two Hoosier communities were in competition with cities in China and Mexico.

“Don’t tell me we can’t compete efficiently with the world,” Daniels said.

Elkhart’s (and Indiana’s) central location with excellent transportation connections make both ideal places to do business, Daniels added. He called Elkhart “a great part of Indiana to do business” and added that though the county fell fast and hard, “all the elements are there” for a strong recovery.

Daniels was cautious in predicting when the economy will turn around, however. He does not expect the economy to “roar back,” but he sees signs of an upturn.

Including today’s announcement, projects announced for Elkhart County so far this year are expected to create more than 2,000 jobs. That includes Electric Motors Corp. (EMC), a manufacturer of electric power drive systems for heavy trucks, which will partner with RV manufacturer Gulf Stream Coach Inc. to invest more than $80 million to establish manufacturing operations in nearby Wakarusa. The partnership holds the potential to create more than 1,600 new jobs.

EMC CEO Will Cashen was present for today’s press conference and drew praise from Daniels, who called his EMC plans “fantastic” news for the community. 

Dometic, which was founded in 1958 as a division of Electrolux, now holds operations in 10 countries and employs more than 4,200 associates. In addition to refrigerators, the company manufactures retractable awnings, climate control systems and sanitation systems for the RV, automobile, heavy truck and marine markets.

Whyte said Dometic has made 35 acquisitions in the past 37 years and continues to look for other businesses to acquire to add value to its business.

“We are pleased that Dometic has selected Elkhart as the site for the relocation of its Swedish production facility. This announcement and the subsequent creation of up to 241 net new jobs to the area could not have come at a better time,” said Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore.

“While the job losses that we as a community have experienced over the past 16 months have had a negative impact on our local economy, I am confident that better times lay ahead. We are a resilient community which has both faced and overcome adversity in the past. By partnering with the state, the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County and the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, we will leverage this success and will work diligently to bring additional positive economic development news to the community,” Moore said.

Moore said the Dometic announcement was an example of the “great news to tell” President Obama who is scheduled to visit nearby Wakarusa, Ind., on Wednesday and announce major economic assistance for the county.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) offered Dometic LLC up to $1.1 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $320,000 in training grants across the two projects based on the company’s job creation plans. The Elkhart City Council late Monday approved additional property tax abatement for the project at the request of the Elkhart County Economic Development Corp. The town of LaGrange will consider additional property tax abatement.

“Dometic has been a great partner in the LaGrange community and we’re excited that they have chosen our county as the appropriate place to grow their operations,” said Keith Gillenwater, executive director of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp. “We look forward to working with Dometic as they grow.”

The IEDC has at least four other deals on the table for new business ventures coming to Elkhart County, David Behr, senior project manager for the IEDC’s North Central Region, told RVBusiness.

Dometic Group is a customer driven, world-leading provider of leisure products for the caravan, motorhome, automotive, truck and marine markets. Dometic supplies the industry and aftermarket with a complete range of air conditioners, refrigerators, awnings, cookers, sanitation systems, lighting, mobile power equipments, comfort – and safety solutions, windows, doors and other equipment.

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Midwest News Media Talking About RV Comeback

July 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Midwest news media looking at recent developments in the RV industry in Indiana are again finding something positive to talk about.

Following announcements that Fleetwood RV Inc. has begun to rehire workers for its motorized RV plant in Decatur, Ind., and that Dometic Corp. is planning to move  production of RV refridgerators from Sweden to Elkhart, creating 241 new jobs there, the print and broadcast media jumped on the good news.

The Indianapolis Star stated that “Plans by two RV companies to hire additional workers could breathe life back into the slumping Northern Indiana RV industry, hammered by low sales and thousands of layoffs.”

The Star quoted Kevin Broom, a spokesman for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), stating, “What we’re hoping is that this is a sign of a turnaround.”

Indiana factories make about 70% of the RVs made in the U.S. More than half are made in Elkhart County.

Statewide, about 60,000 Hoosiers worked in the RV industry at its peak in 2006, when the industry generated more than $65 million in state tax payments.

The announcements were good news for workers in Elkhart County, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, and Decatur, about 20 miles south of Fort Wayne.

“I think our area has been hungry for jobs for a while,” said Kyle Hannon, vice president of public policy for the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.

Dometic will receive a tax break as an incentive from Elkhart and the state of Indiana to invest in the area.

“I’m very optimistic about (Dometic’s) future and about the future of our area,” said Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore.

According to the RVIA, 25,000 jobs have been lost in the RV industry nationwide since its decline over the last pew years. But Broom says he has seen an uptick in hiring in the past few months

Fleetwood RV Inc. has already received 1,500 applications since posting the 650 openings last week. The company expects to fill the positions starting next week.

“This work force historically has been one of Fleetwood’s best work forces,” said Fleetwood’s John Draheim. “The support from the community has been very overwhelming.”

South Bend-based Fox 28 News said the Dometic announcement “brings with it hope that Michiana’s RV industry, once left for dead, has some life in it yet.”

The station quoted Hannon from the Elkhart chamber, saying, “You start to hear different things from the industry like we are busy. But this is the first time it’s more of an announcement that a supplier says yes, we are hiring.”

He said the fact that Elkhart has hundreds of qualified workers just waiting for a job is very attractive to companies in the industry.

“That’s the silver lining of the unfortunate cloud of layoffs. We do have a lot of skilled workers that are ready to go,” said Hannon.

While some are confident the industry is making a comeback, others aren’t so sure.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s not just bringing companies into Elkhart, you’ve got to have credit loosened up,” said Chris Huffer, who works in the RV industry. Huffer owns Midwest RV Connection and knows what it takes to run a business. He says nothing will happen until banks start lending again and the cost of gas keeps going down. However, he is hopeful.

“Do I think it will be back to where it was? Well, it’s a start, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Huffer.

The Fort Wayne News Sentinel, noting that the rebirth of Fleetwood in Decatur, quoted community leaders in Decatur who suggested even more jobs could be resurrected.

Larry Macklin, executive director of the Adams County Economic Development Corp., said he couldn’t say how many jobs would be filled eventually as a result of the purchase of Fleetwood.

“Those numbers you’re seeing don’t include Gold Shield, and Gold Shield was part of the spinoff, too,” Macklin said.

Gold Shield Fiberglass makes components for a wide range of companies, including heavy-truck makers, medical-device manufacturers and bus builders. But a mainstay for Gold Shield is molded RV parts.

Macklin said bringing more workers back to Fleetwood would help smaller suppliers in Adams County, too, such as cabinet-makers that outfit RV interiors and a wiring-harness manufacturer.

Macklin said the recession may actually help Fleetwood in the long run, because weaker RV builders may be thinned out of the market entirely.

“Fleetwood survived because it’s the best. It’s the Cadillac of RVs,” he said.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Indiana Economic Development Corp. helped persuade American Industrial Partners (AIP) to consolidate Fleetwood operations in Decatur, making Decatur the headquarters of the new company. He expects the state to announce more details of its incentives for AIP soon.

Decatur Mayor John Shultz said the Decatur City Council was scheduled to consider abatements Tuesday night to aid the reshaped Fleetwood, too. The abatements would be applied only to equipment valued at $14 million-$15 million, which is likely to be moved here as production is consolidated.

The Fleetwood plant drew most of its employees from a 35-mile radius in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio, Macklin said. He said that despite the excitement of the return of Fleetwood jobs, people need to be patient.

“This isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a few weeks,” he said.

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Gulf Stream Partners with Hybrid Electric Firm

May 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

An Indiana RV-maker, teaming up with a California-based company, plans to make Elkhart County a hub for electric vehicle production, with the potential for more than 1,600 jobs by 2012.

Gov. Mitch Daniels and executives from Electric Motors Corp. and Nappanee, Ind.-based Gulf Stream Coach made the announcement about a partnership today (May 14) to manufacturer what it says is the first light-duty electric pickup truck, according to the Lafayette Journal and Courier.

Together, the companies plan to invest more than $80 million on building renovations, machinery and equipment to site manufacturing facilities in Wakarusa and Nappanee.

It’s welcome news in Indiana’s Elkhart-Goshen region – hard hit by unemployment due to fallout in the recreational vehicle industry, with a March rate of 18.8%, a 13 percentage-point increase over the past year. That was the fourth-highest jobless rate in the country.

“You can’t keep a great work force and a great business environment down for long,” Daniels said in a statement provided by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. “Every trip starts with a single step, but this is a huge step on the way back to the prosperity we’ve always associated with Elkhart County.”

The partner companies are seeking funding through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which could expedite the job creation in Elkhart County, a news release says.

The Department of Energy’s program provides loans to automobile and parts manufacturers for the cost of re-equipping, expanding or establishing U.S. manufacturing facilities to produce advanced technology vehicles or qualified components.

EMC plans to purchase an existing building in Wakarusa and hire 450 workers to produce and assemble electric motors.

Gulf Stream Coach could increase its work force by up to 1,200 jobs, which would include recall of some displaced workers. The company will utilize one of its existing dormant plants in Nappanee for assembly operations.

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