Responding to growing demand and mounting sales, towable builder Open Range RV Co. will be expanding its facilities in Shipshewana, Ind., with plans to hire additional workers.
“Open Range RV Company has been a great partner in Shipshewana and LaGrange County, which is why the company has been the recipient of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp.’s (LCEDC) Business Excellence award three years in a row,” said Keith Gillenwater, president and CEO of the LCEDC, in a press release. “Their rapid growth in such a short period of time is a demonstration of their company’s quality craftsmanship and is a testament to Open Range’s motto: ‘Enjoy the Journey!’ We look forward to continuing to build upon our great relationship with Open Range RV as they expand.”
According to the year-end report from Statistical Surveys Inc., Open Range continues to build market share, ranking No. 5 among fifth-wheel builders for 2012. “It is an honor that our high-quality fifth wheels and travel trailers are being recognized as providing a customer with a great unit with exceptional amenities, and at a price that is affordable,” said Randy Graber, president of Open Range.
Founded in 2007 with just three employees, the company has shown marked sales growth every year, including 2013. “So far, at the end of the first quarter of 2013, comparing this to 2012, we are experiencing a 31.1% increase in retail sales. We are truly humbled that our customers and dealers believe in our products,” Graber said.
Open Range has also been recognized with multiple “Quality Circle Awards” by the RV Dealers Association (RVDA), testament to the builder’s commitment to quality construction, innovative features and floorplans, and reduced weight, according to Gillenwater.
“The demand for Open Range’s recreational vehicles led our relatively new company to continue to grow during the recent recession, and as the economy has recovered, demand for new units has increased tremendously,” said Pam Graber, vice president of operations for Open Range RV.
The LaGrange County Economic Development Corp. (LCEDC), in collaboration with Garmong Construction Services, is announced that LaGrange County has approved a funding mechanism that will allow the community to pursue building a new shell building at the Fawn River Crossing Business Park.
According to a news release, in a joint meeting of the LaGrange County Commissioners and LaGrange County Council, the LCEDC presented Garmong’s plans to erect a new 75,000-square-foot expandable to 150,000-square-foot shell building. The proposed building will have a 32-foot ceiling height, be constructed out of precast concrete and will incorporate all of the flexibility needed to allow suitors to quickly meet client contract manufacturing commitments. The LCEDC had previously voted to financially support the project utilizing TIF dollars. The commissioners and council voted 8-1 in the joint session to expend TIF dollars in support of this project.
LaGrange County will submit a letter of intent in the next few weeks to their joint-venture partner in the project, Garmong Construction Services. The proposed timeframe for the project is to be able to start marketing the shell building as soon as Jan. 1, 2013, with construction slated to start in March and having the building ready for occupancy by August.
“We are pleased that the LaGrange County Commissioners and Council voted to support this much needed shell building project,” said Meredith Cameron, president of the LCEDC . “This public-private partnership will go a long way to helping our Fawn River Crossing Business Park continue to grow as a premier location for new business development.”
“We are thankful for the support we have received on this project from the various governmental bodies in LaGrange County that made pursuing this building possible,” said Keith Gillenwater, president & CEO of the LCEDC. “This will give LaGrange County and our Northeast Indiana region a huge competitive advantage when competing for business development projects. There are very few available buildings that meet these modern design specifications that are available, not only in Indiana, but in the Midwest.”
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.