Despite frigid weather, Michigan’s Novi-Wixom stretch of I-96 is sizzling this week as a hotspot of recreational vehicles, which as an industry is enjoying one of the nation’s most robust comebacks.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, on the south side of I-96 near Beck Road, the five-day Detroit Camper & RV Show is under way through Sunday. Organizers expect more than 20,000 visitors as 275 RVs and other exhibits at the Suburban Collection Showplace occupy every square inch of floor space.

Fueled by cheap gas and a wave of retiring Baby Boomers with money to spend and time to travel, the industry is adding capacity after a severe retrenchment period — and Michigan has even siphoned a chunk of the RV manufacturing business away from its northern Indiana hub.

Last week, Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Manufacturing Inc. announced plans to locate three RV plants and 369 jobs in White Pigeon, a village in southwest Michigan near the state line. The state of Michigan approved a $1.6-million Community Block Grant for worker training, along with a $350,000 cash incentive if the company invests the $7.1 million and creates the jobs it promised.

One exit to the west of the RV show, General RV Center, the nation’s largest family owned RV retailer, has just launched its huge new showroom and corporate headquarters on the site of the former Ford Wixom assembly plant, which shut down in 2007.

Loren Baidas is president of General RV, a company his grandfather Abe started in 1962 on a small lot on 8 Mile Road in Southfield. It has grown to 11 superstores, six in Michigan and one each in Ohio, Utah and Chicago, and two in Florida — in Jacksonville and Tampa.

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