In a contract that reflects the growing economic impact of America’s seniors, an Indiana transit bus manufacturer has received its biggest-ever order from a non-municipal organization. Under the nearly $8 million agreement, Elkhart Coach, a division of Forest River Inc., will manufacture 189 14-passenger buses for Emeritus Senior Living.

According to a news release, Emeritus is the nation’s largest provider of assisted living and memory care, and also offers independent living and other related senior care and services. The company operates Brentwood at Elkhart along with 477 other senior living communities in 44 states. The order from Elkhart Coach is the single biggest vehicle purchase in Emeritus’ 19-year history. Production of the vehicles begins in mid-May.

“In addition to being our largest non-municipal contract to date, it’s our biggest for senior transportation,” said Elkhart Coach General Manager Tony Cundiff. “We’re proud to have been selected for this important order and very pleased that it will benefit the local economy.”

The nearly $8 million order equals $15.2 million in value for sustaining and creating jobs in the area, according to Morton Marcus, economist and former faculty member of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Elkhart Coach recently increased its factory floor work force by more than 6%, hiring four additional people due to the rising workload from the Emeritus order and other business.

Elkhart Coach currently employs 63 on the factory floor and 10 in its office. With this contract and America’s 65-plus population continuing to increase, “I would hope the senior market becomes a growing segment for us,” Cundiff said.

The buses can transport 14 passengers, including two in wheelchairs who board using a lift through the rear side doors. Built on a Ford chassis, the buses are more than 80% American-made. Each takes three weeks to build. The first bus is expected to roll off the line in mid-June, with production continuing through December.