Elkhart County is outpacing the gross domestic product nationally. A recent study shows that the outdoor recreation industry ranks 15th in the nation for GDP and a lot of that — the majority, actually — comes from the recreation vehicle industry.

Frank Hugelmeyer, president of RV Industry Association (RVIA), said, “We’re obviously in a record period of growth and we’re driving not only the local Elkhart community but we’re driving … we’re outpacing the GDP across the country. We’re so important when it comes to outdoor recreation as a whole, we’re the major driver of that as an economics sector. And isn’t that wonderful that we’re in the hub of Elkhart and that we have such a big impact not only in this community but across the entire nation?”

That impact is what brought national officials to the sixth annual RV Industry Power Breakfast Thursday (May 3) morning at the Northern Indiana Event Center.

Ryan Zinke, U.S. secretary of interior, was scheduled to speak but had to stay in Washington. Instead, he sent Rick May, his senior national adviser. Much like his boss, May is former military, a U.S. Navy SEAL captain. His job with the Interior: to be in charge of all outdoor activities from “archery to zipline,” he said.

Access and opportunities are vital keys, according to May, Hugelmeyer and KOA President Toby O’Rourke, who also spoke Thursday. This requires a public-private partnership, the speakers stressed.

That’s why the Made in America Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee was formed. Sitting on that committee is Matt Miller, president of Newmar Corp. in Nappanee.

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