While much of northern Indiana is still working to shake off the remnants of the recession, Elkhart County has emerged as perhaps the region’s best economic engine.
Though South Bend-Mishawaka, for example, added jobs in the past year, the area’s economy didn’t grow. In fact, it actually shrank in 2013. According to a report by the South Bend Tribune, the story is similar throughout much of the region.
Elkhart County is a different story — a story of a strong recovery and signs for future growth.
The Elkhart-Goshen area saw a devastating drop in real GDP from $10.2 billion in 2008 to $7.8 billion in 2009, but it recovered in 2010 and has continued to grow each year. Its real GDP was $11.6 billion in 2013.
Manufacturing, particularly the resurgent recreational vehicle industry, has been the key driver behind Elkhart County’s comeback. In the South Bend-Mishawaka area, a decline in manufacturing is a big reason for the slump in overall economic growth.
The RV industry pulled Elkhart County down during the recession, and it’s pushed it back up during the recovery.
Nearly 80% of RVs are made in Indiana, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. That was a liability when shipments plummeted from 390,500 in 2006 to 165,700 in 2009, but they have bounced back in recent years and reached 321,000 in 2013.
About 126,700 people were employed in Elkhart County in September, according to state statistics. That was a jump of 6,500 jobs compared with the previous year.
Jim Skillen, vice president at Newmark Grubb Cressy & Everett, a real-estate firm, said the rebound has been evident in the demand for industrial buildings. He said the vacancy rate for industrial buildings in Elkhart County has dropped from 10% to 5% since the beginning of 2014.
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