The recreational vehicle industry continued on a path of strong growth in 2016, with shipments of new RVs surpassing 400,000 for the first time since the industry began reliably tracking the statistic in 1978.

“We expected it to be a good year, but we were pleasantly surprised it was this good,” said Kevin Broom with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

The South Bend Tribune reported that 2016 marked the seventh straight year of growth for the industry, the longest stretch on record, and the fourth year of double-digit percentage growth in the past five years.

For Indiana’s Elkhart County and the surrounding area, it all adds up to millions of dollars in investments and tens of thousands of jobs.

Jayco Inc. will add more than 400,000 square feet of production space and 300 jobs to its Middlebury campus this year to meet growing demand for its travel trailers, fifth-wheels, toy haulers and motor homes.

Forest River Inc., meanwhile, will add 450,000 square feet of production space and 425 jobs in LaGrange to meet growing demand for its Cherokee line of fifth-wheel and travel trailers and nurture a new luxury bus division.

The only question, it seems, is whether the region can support so much job growth.

Unemployment stood at 3.1% in Elkhart County, 3% in LaGrange County, 3.3% in Kosciusko County, 3.4% in Marshall County and 4.2% in St. Joseph County in November.

John Ganyard, vice president of human resources for Jayco, alluded to the problem last summer.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen signs of growth being stunted yet, but I think it’s on the minds of everyone,” Ganyard said at the time. “We’re worried. As you look to the future, how long can growth continue if you don’t attract new workers to the area?”

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