In a move brought on by improved economic conditions, the Starcraft RV Inc. division of Jayco Inc. today (May 6) announced that it has resumed production in its Topeka, Ind., plant.
The Starcraft facility had previously been closed and production of Starcraft products had been consolidated into Jayco’s Middlebury, Ind., complex as part of Jayco’s efforts to trim costs and reduce production capacity.
“When we consolidated the Starcraft operations into Jayco’s Middlebury campus, we indicated that our goal would be to reinstate the operations in Topeka as soon as market conditions would allow,” Jim Jacobs, Starcraft RV general manager, stated in a news release. “We believe that time is now. The year has started off on a pace well ahead of last year both in shipping and in retail sales activity. We continue to be optimistic that 2010 will be a much improved year for our industry.”
Jacobs added that the initial production move focuses on Autumn Ridge travel trailers, the company’s popular entry level towable products. He indicated that the company will hire as many as 50 workers this year in the re-opened facility. Remaining product lines will be transferred back to the Topeka facility as market conditions dictate over the next 18 months.
“This re-start of production in Topeka will provide Starcraft RV with the opportunity to more quickly respond to the marketplace, to continue our focus on core products, and ultimately allow us to become an aggressive competitor in the RV industry,” said Jacobs. “We anticipate the Topeka campus will eventually house four manufacturing assembly lines, and two side department operations, thereby allowing us to employ several hundred people long-term. The growth from both a production and employment standpoint will take place gradually.”
First off the line in Topeka, the 2011 Starcraft Autumn Ridge travel trailers will be available in several floorplans ranging from 22 feet to just over 35 feet. Designed for a variety of lifestyles and budgets, the Autumn Ridge boasts a level of standard equipment and optional upgrades normally limited to more expensive units, thus offering greater value to RV users.
With headquarters re-established in Topeka, Indiana, in the heart of Amish country, Starcraft RV manufactures and markets towable RVs under the Starcraft, Centennial, RT, Travel Star, Autumn Ridge, Lexion, Lexion S-Lite and Rock Star brand names. For more information on Starcraft Autumn Ridge and other Starcraft products, call 1-800-945-4787, or visit www.StarcraftCamping.com.
As one of a number of recreational vehicle manufacturers recovering from the recession of 2008-2009, Jayco Inc. will start building high-end Entegra Class A motorhomes in June in a 30,000-square-foot addition to its factory in Middlebury, Ind.
”The expansion has started,” Jayco President and COO Derald Bontrager told RVBusiness. ”We have moved dirt. We anticipate that the building will increase our production from 150 a year to right around a thousand.”
The city of Middlebury in February approved a 10-year tax abatement on the property and a three-year abatement on manufacturing and IT equipment that will be going into the new facility.
In a related move, Jayco in May will restart limited production of its Starcraft towable RV brand in the same Topeka, Ind., factory that it mothballed last year as the company moved Starcraft production to Middlebury during the recession. Full production of Starcraft units is expected to shift back to Topeka over the next two to three years as some models continue for now to be built in Middlebury.
Initially, Jayco will move 65 people to Topeka to build Starcraft’s Autumn Ridge and Travel Star towables.
”At the time (of Starcraft’s 2009 move to Middlebury) we said that when market conditions allowed us we would reopen in Topeka,” Bontrager said. ”We feel the time is now to take advantage of the market that is starting to return. We don’t have a timetable yet, but we will be moving all our Starcraft product lines over to Topeka.”
Jim Jacobs recently was named general manager of both the Starcraft RV and Entegra Coach divisions.
Bontrager said that both moves are in response to improvement of the RV market as the U.S. emerges from the longest economic recession in more than 50 years.
”During the winter months, part of what’s been going on, along with the increased retail activity, is that dealers have been restocking for the upcoming spring selling season,” Bontrager said. ”Retail shows all over the country have been very well attended and sales have been relatively good — better than last year. People are doing more than looking. They are out buying.”
In 2008, Jayco acquired the assets of former Wakarusa, Ind.-based Travel Supreme Corp. and created the Entegra line of Class A diesel pushers in lengths up to 45 feet with MSRPs from $250,000 to $600,000.
The recession that followed stifled Jayco’s plans for the Entegra. ”We are still pretty much a startup in the luxury diesel market,” Bontrager said.
Bontrager said the expansion of the Entegra production line is necessary. ”With our current production capacity of 150 a year, our backlogs have grown to an unacceptable level,” he said. ”We anticipate that there will be a two-year ramp up to get to the production level we want to hit as we build our dealer base and add to our (Entegra) product offering.”
Bontrager reported the company has rehired 250 people that had been laid off and that Jayco’s total employment is now at about 1,500 workers. ”Our production today is double what it was a year ago,” he said.
But while economic prospects appear to be improving, Bontrager said that the RV industry still has a way to go before full recovery.
”There are still a lot of segments of our industry and of the economy that have to come back before we are on really solid footing. It’s going to be a different type of recovery; it’s going to be a slow recovery.”
The local RV business got another sizable shot of good news Wednesday (March 3), according to the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.
Starcraft RV, a division of Jayco Inc., announced it will reopen its Topeka, Ind., manufacturing facilities in May.
The reopening of the plant in southwestern LaGrange County means 50 new jobs.
“This calendar year it involves 50 new jobs, but eventually it will be a pretty big deal with as many as 250 jobs over the next two to three years,” said Sid Johnson, marketing director for Jayco.
The plant had been closed since January 2009 as part of Jayco’s corporate efforts to trim costs and production capacity because of the recession.
The company said in its release that initially it will move production of Starcraft Autumn Ridge travel trailers from its Middlebury complex. Over time, company officials said they anticipate that production of most, if not all of Starcraft RV product lines, will be relocated back to the Topeka plants.
“When we consolidated operations into the Middlebury campus last year, we stated that our goal was to reinstate the Topeka operations as soon as market conditions would allow us to do so,” Jim Jacobs, general manager of Starcraft RV, said in the release.
“Now that our business has begun to recover from the recent recession cycle, we believe the timing is right to accelerate these activities,” he said.
Johnson said the 50 workers to be hired will likely be some of the old workers who lost their jobs as well as new hires.
“I am not sure (recalling only former workers) will work for 100% of our needs,” Johnson said.
“Obviously, we would like to have experienced people and if there are qualified, experienced Starcraft workers who are available, I think we would want for sure to be able to talk to them.”
The news is on the heels of the late January announcement that Jayco had begun an expansion of its motorhome manufacturing facility, which will increase production output for the company’s lines of Entegra Coach Class A motorhomes.
That expansion will result in 40 to 50 new jobs at the Middlebury campus beginning in July, and an additional 30 jobs to be created longer-term as production reaches full capacity, Derald L. Bontrager, president and chief operating officer of Jayco, said.
Jayco started the Entegra Coach division in 2008 as a result of its acquisition of the assets of the former Travel Supreme Corp.
The Jayco announcement follows a string of RV expansions that have been announced over the past several months.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reported recently that RV sales are rebounding significantly over a year ago.
Starcraft RV, a division of Jayco Inc., today (March 3) announced that it will reopen its Topeka, Ind., manufacturing facilities beginning in May.
The Starcraft RV plant had been closed in January 2009 as part of the Jayco corporate efforts to trim costs and reduce production capacity as a result of recessionary economic pressures, according to a news release.
The company said it will initially move production of Starcraft Autumn Ridge travel trailers from its Middlebury, Ind., complex and the move will create 50 jobs at the Topeka facility later this year. Over time, company officials said they anticipate that production of most, if not all, of Starcraft RV product lines will be relocated back to the Topeka plants.
In making the announcement, Jim Jacobs, general manager of Starcraft RV, said, “When we consolidated operations into the Middlebury campus last year, we stated that our goal was to reinstate the Topeka operations as soon as market conditions would allow us to do so. Now that our business has begun to recover from the recent recession cycle, we believe the timing is right to accelerate these activities.”
Fewer than 20 workers were transferred to Middlebury, where they continued to make Starcraft products, Sid Johnson, Jayco’s director of marketing, told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some will transfer back to Topeka, and 50 workers will hired in addition, Johnson said.
Jayco hopes eventually to employ 200 to 250 at the Topeka plant, but that depends on how well the RV market recovers, Johnson said.