The vehicle assembly industry has provided thousands of jobs for decades in Indiana’s Elkhart County, but when looking ahead after the Great Recession, many people believe the time has come to pursue industrial diversity.
“Probably it is going to be hard to overcome in the next decade or two, because of the significant ebbs and flows of the economy, the RV industry is going to maintain a large presence in Elkhart County,” said David Daughtery, president of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, told the Goshen News. “But the goal is to try and soften that by looking at opportunities that are out there that will increase the non-RV manufacturing component of the community.”
Just how big of a footprint does the RV industry have in the county? According to Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, 23,000 jobs, or 24% of all jobs in the county, are tied to the industry.
“Which is fantastic when the RV and marine industries are booming,” Heiden-Guss said. “But clearly we need to broaden our reach or our base to add more of an even flow to offset those down periods.
“We have been so good at doing what we have always done that it has put us at a dangerous concentration. We still support in every way the RV and marine industries and because of them it is allowing our corporation to take some risks and even fail at trying and pursuing new opportunities.”
Heiden-Guss said the 28-member EDC board, which consists of mayors, a County Council member, a county commissioner, industrialists, bankers and other business people, unanimously agreed last fall to change the focus of the EDC, which had to focus on filling vacant factories during the recession.
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