Editor’s Note: The following is an editorial that ran in the Goshen News touting the resurgence of the RV industry in Indiana’s Elkhart County, and the rollout of a planned RV job training program at Ivy Tech.
This past week Tamara Keith of National Public Radio came to Elkhart County to report on the area’s slow and steady economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2009 that shuttered many RV manufacturing plants and left thousands without a job. At that time Elkhart County’s unemployment rate spiked to more than 20 percent — the highest in the country — and prompted a visit from the newly-elected President Obama.
Some six years later the RV industry is flourishing again as manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand and to hire qualified workers. Meanwhile the calls for economic diversification continue, even in the shadow of renewed prosperity. While we’re all for such diversification, we certainly don’t believe it should happen at the expense of what has been built here over the course of decades.
It is important to recognize who we are and what we do best and embrace it. Elkhart County is the RV manufacturing capital of the world and we should be pretty darn proud of that. It’s because of the RV industry that Elkhart County is the fifth largest county in terms of jobs in Indiana (115,260), according to 2013 data, slightly ahead of neighboring St. Joseph County (115,164). Of that work force here in Elkhart County, 80 percent are connected to manufacturing, according to the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County.
Four of the top seven employers in the county — Forest River Inc., Thor Industries Inc., Drew Industries Inc. and Jayco Inc. — build RVs. There are hundreds of other small manufacturing companies whose products supply the RV industry. The opportunity for employment is great again.
In the meantime, beginning Feb. 2, Ivy Tech will offer one-week (40 hour) training courses at a cost of $50 aimed at training potential workers with basic manufacturing skills for the RV industry. Upon successful completion, students will receive a preferred job interview with one of three sponsoring companies — Thor Industries, Lippert Components and Patrick Industries.
To read the entire editorial click here.