LaGrange County in northern Indiana is reaping the benefits of the RV industry along with its neighbor, Elkhart County, where some of the largest RV manufacturers are located, according to the Greater Fort Wayne (Ind.) Business Journal.
Several RV manufacturers have located in the county east of Elkhart’s RV manufacturing hub near the Michigan State Line, the Journal noted, creating a cluster around Topeka, Ind., and other small communities.
A new industrial park under construction in Howe already is home to DoubleTree RV. Sun Valley Inc. also has built a plant there, and Keystone RV Co. will be leasing manufacturing space there as well.
Gary Zehr, LaGrange County economic development director, said the county is embracing RV manufacturing as it continues to expand in the area.
“The growth of the RV industry was naturally going to stretch to LaGrange because we have a similar work force to Elkhart County,” he said. “We don’t want to be RV-dominated, but we have some room for growth in that area.”
Zehr said the county was not actively pursuing RV manufacturers for the industrial park in Howe.
“They showed interest and we followed up,” he said. “If we wouldn’t have done our due diligence, we wouldn’t have got it.”
Sun Valley is expected to open by Sept. 1 at the Howe industrial park and eventually employ about 200 people. Keystone already has started operations, and its goal is to employ about 300 in the next three to five years, Zehr said.
The 200-acre industrial park on State Road 9 near Howe’s interchange with the Indiana Toll Road is expected to cost the county about $5 million to build.
It also will include retail and hotel space in addition to industrial facilities, the business weekly reported.
Topeka, in western LaGrange County, also boasts a large RV manufacturing component. Starcraft RV Inc. has maintained an operation in town since the 1970s, and Forest River Inc. and CrossRoads RV Inc. located factories there about five years ago.
Topeka Town Manager Larry Schrock said the RV industry has expanded outside of the Elkhart area to gain access to more potential employees.