Editor’s Note: The following is an editorial published Thursday (Sept. 18) in the Goshen News examining the economic impact from last week’s 7th Annual Elkhart RV Open House Week that brought thousands of RV dealers to the area.
The old saying about the economy is that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” But as the United States economic growth inches along, there is a segment based here in Elkhart County that is outpacing just about all other segments – the recreational vehicle industry.
This week that industry is displaying its vast fleet of offerings to RV dealers, who are driving and flying in from across North America and overseas. The event was started by Pete Liegl, president of Forest River, as a way to show off new RVs to the company’s dealers. Since then, all local RV manufacturers have joined in and now a sea of RVs covers the grounds of the RV/MH Hall of Fame, the surrounding vacant land and every open spot along C.R. 6. It is a sight to see.
Because the recreational vehicle industry added thousands of jobs to be able to meet the demand for products, Elkhart County led the nation in job growth in 2012 and was third from March 2012 to March 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This recent surge in the industry is making Elkhart County economically vibrant once again. We see only a rosy future for local communities as long as there is a demand for recreational vehicles. But with all luxury goods, there has to be a “but…” added to any statement about the future.
Before the recession, the RV industry was booming as American’s purchased these fun vehicles at a torrid rate. When credit dried up due to the banking crisis, the industry fell on hard times. During the recession, the county’s unemployment rate hit 20.2 percent in March 2009. Since then, the RV industry has recovered and has had a remarkable string of more than 30 months of continued growth each month over the same month a year before.
Americans and Canadians love to use recreational vehicles to travel, enjoy the outdoors and camp as they do so. Consumers see RVs as a good investment, not only in a vehicle, but in a lifestyle.
As this week’s open house shows, Elkhart County residents are very good at building high-quality recreational vehicles to meet everyone’s needs. The units on display are something to behold. They have a mix of technology and traditional craftsmanship, most noticeable in the cabinetry and furniture. There are basic “stick and tin” units with linoleum floors up to exotic motorhomes made for the luxury, full-time living market.
WHATEVER THE PRICE point involved, we are proud to see the world coming here to take a look at what we make, and what we do.