When Skyline Corp. rolled the last RV off the assembly line in the Great Recession and shut down in April 2012, it was a stunning blow to California’s San Jacinto Valley economy.
According to a report by the Press-Enterprise, the company that had a legacy of passing down jobs through generations was once one of Hemet’s biggest employers. At its peak, 300 to 400 people were on the payroll.
To many, it felt like the city lost a family member.
Now the very spot that foundered, despite efforts by China-based KPL Scaffold to grow its North American business in Skyline’s vacated plant, is being groomed for an RV-making comeback.
Forest River Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, bought the Hemet plant in December from KPL to open its 67th assembly plant in the nation. Founded in 1996 by Peter Liegl, Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River produces motorized Class A, B and C travel trailers, fifth wheels, pop-up tent campers, park model trailers, commercial vehicles, pontoons, buses and mobile offices.
Ty Miller, general manager of the Forest River RV plant in Rialto, declined to reveal terms of the sale brokered by O’Gorman Pacific Realty of Riverside. Before Skyline sold the facility to KPL in 2013, the property with three buildings at Palm and Mayberry avenues was listed for $4.6 million, according to an NAI Capital brochure.
Miller did say Forest River would spend more than $1 million to retrofit two buildings on the 18-acre site for the assembly work for Salem, Wildwood and Evo travel trailers, and the Stealth, Shockwave and Sand Storm toy-haulers.
Forest River intends to keep the Rialto factory open, Miller said. “When all is said and done, we expect to employ 500-plus people.”
Having Forest River locate in Hemet to create new, local jobs was like getting a Christmas present for the town and its citizens, Hemet Mayor Linda Krupa noted.
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