Officials in Indiana’s Elkhart County are looking for ways to attract more business to the area, while trying to ease their dependence on the recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries.
The South Bend Tribune reported that in wake of the 1,400 jobs lost last How To Get Your Man Back After Broke Up week at RV maker Monaco Coach Corp., county commissioners are asking for government assistance in researching ways the county can assist the RV industry while taking on new strategies to diversity the employment base.
The commissioners are pursuing assistance from the regional office of the Economic Development Administration in Chicago. Officials are asking for two grants to fund the studies, one that could total $50,000 and the other between $1 million and $3 million.
Meanwhile, Elkhart County Commissioner Terry Rodino spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, D.C., meeting with economic development officials in researching the long-term effects of high energy costs on the RV industry and its economic impact.
Monaco was the county’s fifth-largest employer with 2,000 workers. The company, based in Coburg, Ore., will cease operations by mid-September at plants in Elkhart, Wakarusa and Nappanee.
“We need to diversify this economy and grow some of our other business sectors,” Commissioner Mike Yoder said Wednesday. “Some new business is coming in, but it hasn’t happened fast enough. Hopefully, this grant can help us figure out why we’re not attracting businesses faster.”
Yoder said the county will appoint a university to research the following questions:
• Are there adequate public policies in place to assist in the long-term viability of these industries in the current new energy environment?
• What is the extent of potential future labor reductions?
• Are adequate resources being allocated to research and development in this industry to adjust to a new energy environment?
• To what extent are federal regulations affecting the potential future growth of this industry?
Yoder is quick to note the entire region took a hit in the recent wave of layoffs. Of the 1,430 jobs lost at Monaco, 699 of the employees live in Elkhart County, 297 in St. Joseph, 191 in Marshall and 115 in Kosciusko.
“It’s a dangerous time for the entire region,” Yoder said. “A lot of people rely on Elkhart for jobs.
“I’m suspicious that next week there will be more bad news and more jobs lost. We’re working as fast as we can to stay ahead of the curve the best we can. … I’d like to use this as incentive to really move forward and attract new industry. I think we have become complacent.”
In a news release sent out this week, the commissioners discussed two countywide strategic exercises that have taken place to “lead us to diversifying our economy,” after a study pointed to 50% of the jobs coming from the RV, manufactured housing and related feeder industries.
One of the strategies has been acquiring a new Ivy Tech facility to provide a better educated and special skills certified work force, the release read. The other strategy has been implementing a county tax phase-in policy that targets advanced technology manufacturing jobs.
“It was our intention not to diminish this aspect of our local job-producing business sector, but rather use it as an important foundation to grow additional and diverse job opportunities,” the commissioners said in the news release.

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