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Indiana’s recreational vehicle industry is making a comeback. Manufacturers say they have not fully recovered from the hard hit they took during the recession, but things are looking up.
There was a steady stream of visitors at the Walnut Ridge Family RV Show Saturday (Jan. 15), with some just looking and others looking to buy.
“This is kind of the time a lot of people don’t buy, so a lot of the deals are right now, because it’s off-season,” said Dianna Norris.
Serious shoppers are helping to boost what just two years ago was a dying industry. In 2009, President Barack Obama visited Elkhart, Ind., the RV manufacturing capital of the world, to pitch his stimulus package, which included tax deductions for those who buy RVs.
“So we can’t afford to wait. We can’t wait and see and hope for the best,” Obama said.
At the time of the president’s visit, the unemployment rate in Elkhart County was 17.5%. Last year, it was down to 14%, still well above the national average, but moving in the right direction.
“Things are on the upswing. Nationally, last year the RV industry was up about 8%, so we’ve kind of stopped the downturn and we’re starting to see things look up for us,” said Nathan Hart, Walnut Ridge Family RV.
That’s good news for an industry that now sells luxury living rooms on wheels. Many components, including cabinets and countertops are also made in Indiana.
Anderson resident Patty Leonard was looking for a good fit for her retirement. If the state benefits, she says, it’s all the better.
“I didn’t realize that, but yes, it does make a big difference. I didn’t realize that most of them are made in Indiana, but that does make a big difference for the economy of our state,” she said.
The free RV show continues at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds through next weekend. It is open until 9 p.m. Saturday night (Jan. 15) and from noon until 5 p.m. Sunday. Monday through Friday, doors are open from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m.