There are plenty of companies in the upper Midwest who are staying open today and tomorrow (Jan. 30 and 31) despite the onset of record cold temperatures spurred by a meandering Polar Vortex – a phenomenon few of us fully understand – including Minnesota’s Cummins Inc. operations as well as Michigan’s Thetford Corp., Spartan Motors Inc. and Stromberg Carlson Products Inc. facilities.
“Although it’s cold, we’re somewhat used to this,” said Garry Enyart, Cummins’ director of mobile generator sales and chairman of the RV Industry Association (RVIA).
But while there are probably plenty of exceptions in the area, the fact of the matter is that the general environs of Elkhart, Ind., where 85% of the nation’s annual recreation vehicles are produced, have gone into cold storage by shutting down offices and production facilities to an extent that most don’t remember since the epic Blizzard of ’78.
That goes for a wide spectrum of companies from Gulf Stream Coach Inc., in Nappanee, Ind., to Keystone RV Co., headquartered in Goshen, Ind., to Doug Gaeddert’s 3,500-employee, Goshen-based unit of Forest River Inc. — all three of which were planning to shutter their plants both Wednesday and Thursday. Same goes for Renegade RV, a REV Recreation Group division based in the Elkhart suburb of Bristol, in addition to Elkhart-based Patrick Industries Inc. and Grand Design RV in rural Middlebury, Ind.
“We’re just making sure our employees are safe,” said Christy Spencer, director, marketing and communications for Keystone, the Goshen, Ind.-based division of Thor Industries Inc. “When temperatures plummet like that, it’s just not healthy to be outside.”
“For the next two days, which are anticipated to be bitterly cold, most people in general are as well,” said Gaeddert, who also closed Indiana plants in Topeka and LaGrange. “I’d say 90% to 100% of the area plants are shutting down. For the most part the entire industry is probably shut down for the next two days with a few possible exceptions. And there’s really no choice. We’re obviously all concerned about the safety of our employees.”
Meanwhile, RV transporter Horizon Transport President Joe Braun on Tuesday said his company’s local operations will be suspended, but essential personnel will report to support transport drivers who are in the field nationwide. Braun said this action is in effect for Wednesday and at least part of Thursday. The company expects to resume normal operations by Friday. “The problem is, obviously, that in this type of condition normal little mishaps become deadly,” he added.