The strength of the recreational vehicle industry in 2003 helped power the regional economy in Northern Indiana and spurred predictions of a healthy 2004, according to a retrospective article in the Dec. 28 edition of the South Bend Tribune.
According to the Tribune, Elkhart County’s regional daily newspaper, the RV industry’s dominant presence in Elkhart County helped offset layoffs and other setbacks in the manufacturing-heavy area that includes South Bend in neighboring St. Joseph County.
“I think we have a lot of reasons to be optimistic,” said Mark Eagan, president and chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County. “In 2002, people wanted to be optimistic, but there was nothing they could point to. Now, it’s more than just an emotional desire. You can point to evidence of economic recovery.”
The Tribune alluded to robust industry sales reports out of the 41st Annual National RV Trade Show, Dec. 2-4 in Louisville, Ky., as harbingers of continued prosperity in 2004. However, Eagan emphasized that the region’s general manufacturing arena still faces challenges, heightened by the loss of jobs to overseas factories over the past year.
Companies throughout the area’s economy, he maintains, need to be innovative in seeking new opportunities. “Maybe we can’t manufacture the widget,” he said, “but we can at least be the ones to find ways to make that widget better.”