In 2008, a group of four Pilgrim International executives had been planning a new model that the recreational vehicle maker would market as more environmentally friendly.

As reported by the Elkhart Truth, they would incorporate more man-made composite materials rather than the commonly used luan, a wood that comes from trees in the rain forests of Malaysia and Indonesia. Because the composite weighs less than wood, the vehicle would also get better gas mileage, reducing fuel emissions.

But then came the Great Recession, causing Pilgrim, like many others in the area, to close its doors. Not only was their new idea suddenly grounded, but they were jobless.

“Obviously it was difficult to find employment,” said Doug Lantz, one of the former Pilgrim executives and now EverGreen’s vice president of sales and marketing. “As factories were going out of business and laying off management, and the wheels were coming off, we were all right in the middle of all that.”

As they pondered their own futures, the men still felt confident in their idea, Lantz said. But how could they possibly get their concept off the ground without a company?

They cleared a major hurdle when they won the support of influential investors Kelly Rose and Mike Schoeffler, longtime industry veterans whose buy-in soon attracted other investors. In late 2008, EverGreen RV LLC was born.

More than five years later, EverGreen last year was the fastest-growing RV maker among the 15 largest companies in the industry, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., an independent Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm that tracks the RV industry.

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