Elkhart, Ind.-based RV builder Forest River Inc. received a favorable recommendation April 6 from the LaGrange County (Ind.) Plat Committee regarding its plans to add a 93,275-square-foot plant for production of entry-level Cherokee towable RVs in Topeka.
The LaGrange County Plan Commission on April 18 will then deal with the request for a new facility to be located behind the company’s existing Cedar Creek and Cherokee facilities on the northwest side of the northern Indiana village.
The company’s two current Topeka plants, which were built about five years ago and are unable to keep pace with current demand, produce about 40 travel trailers a day. Company officials hope to increase production to 60 or 70 daily with the addition of the new capacity, Forest River spokesman Mike Stump told county officials last week, according to The Journal-Gazette of Fort Wayne.
Forest River President Peter J. Liegl says the new construction is not only a sign that business is good for Forest River’s inexpensive towable business, but is also an indicator that trade is brisk for the rest of the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary’s diverse product lines – including everything from mid-to-high-priced towable RVs to Class A motorhomes, tent campers, cargo trailers, commercial buses and high-end pontoon boats.
The LaGrange proposal comes at a time when Forest River is also in the process of adding two new 100,000-square-foot buildings to its Goshen complex and has just completed remodeling two plants north of the Elkhart airport for Elkhart Coach, the company’s new bus division.
“We’re doing good,” Liegl told RV Business. “I’m producing as many (Class) A’s right now as I ever did. The only thing that’s sluggish right now is horse trailers, and I’m not in it.”
When the final numbers are in, Liegl added, Forest River expects to post a 40% increase in sales for the first quarter (ended March 31) of 2006 versus the first quarter of 2005.
The proposed Topeka expansion would add about 65 semi-skilled jobs in the first year with a payroll of $3 million and the prospect of an additional 55 jobs after two years, said Stump, adding that Forest River currently employs about 5,500 in the state, with 400 at the two existing Topeka plants.