Forest River Inc. recently purchased a 25-acre property in Sheridan, Ore., with plans to beef up West Coast production capacity with the addition of the former Liberty Homes facility, including expanded assembly of Surveyor and R-pod towable lines, spokesmen confirm.
Forest River’s new Northwest Oregon plant — the Berkshire Hathaway Inc subsidiary’s sixth in Oregon and 10th on the West Coast — consists of two manufacturing plants totaling 215,000 square feet. Renovation work is to begin immediately, spokesmen indicate, with plans to be up and running by this summer.
“This expansion is in response to the growing demand of our products on the West Coast,” stated Kevin McArt, general manager of the Surveyor and R-pod lines. “We have exhausted our current capacity and with this additional manufacturing space we’ll be able to reduce our response time to our loyal dealer base.
“Between the RV and cargo trailer operations already in place at existing operations, Forest River currently employs over 900 people in the state. This new expansion project will take Forest River’s Oregon employment well over 1,000 and further demonstrates Forest River’s commitment to the Western markets and their outstanding dealer network.”
The news comes only three months after Forest River made headlines around Northern Indiana with the acquisition of a 120-acre former Dutch Housing complex in LaGrange, about a half hour’s drive east of Elkhart, housing around 450,000 square feet of vacant manufacturing space in four large buildings that should result in the addition of at least a couple of hundred jobs over the next year.
Three of the four LaGrange facilities, with upgrades nearly completed, should be operational shortly, reported Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert, who said that the LaGrange move is sort of a “natural progression” for the company which already maintains a strong presence in that general area east of Goshen with facilities in the communities of Topeka, Millersburg and Middlebury.
“The first plant to fire up, which is already in double digits per day, produces our Cherokee, Wolfpack, Vengeance and XLR toy haulers. We had outgrown where we were at before with the other current facilities,” explained Gaeddert. “And the other half of that 100,000-square-foot plant is dedicated 100% to factory service and the large crate-free type of parts.
“So, we actually have two parts and service locations within this 120-acre complex,” he added. “One will primarily be a call center, parts and UPS, and the other will be a physical unit with scaffolding just like you would set up in a manufacturing plant. The larger part will be a common carrier, crate-and-freight type setup.”
While the next LaGrange plant to be opened will house production of the Cherokee Artic Wolf, a laminated mid-profile fifth-wheel, yet another facility at the LaGrange County complex is actually leased for the time being to “our friendly but No. 1 competitor Thor Industries,” said Gaeddert. “This past week, we moved about 30 folks out there on the sales, administrative and parts, and service side of things from Topeka and Goshen, so we’re well underway out there.”