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The RV market is on an upswing and Timberland RV Co. Inc., Peru, Ind., should be in a position to satisfy the anticipated increase in demand now that it has expanded its manufacturing capacity with the opening of a new 77,000-square-foot plant.
Timberland, which does business as Adventure Manufacturing Inc., was founded a little more than two years ago by former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. executives Mark Gerber and Kean MacOwan. They presided over a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 1 to mark the opening of the new factory.
In exchange for $241,500 in state and local grants to help finance the expansion, the manufacturer of Timberlodge, Glacier and Riverside travel trailers and fifth-wheels also pledged to double its work force to at least 260 people within the next year.
“We will exceed that,” said MacOwan, Adventure’s vice president.
Timberland opened in August 1999 building entry-level and mid-priced towable RVs. In its new factory, the company will build the light-weight Riverside, the entry-level Timberlodge and the mid-range Glacier.
The new plant gives the company the capacity to increase production from 3,000 to 5,000 units a year.
During 2001, when travel trailer and fifth-wheel sales were down 4% industrywide, Timberland’s dealers sold 1,297 travel trailers and fifth-wheels to retail buyers, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., an independent market research firm. The company ranked 14th in terms of retail market share in travel trailers and 36th in fifth-wheels last year, according to Statistical Surveys.
Timberland’s retail sales were up 49% year-to-date through the end of April, underlining the need for the new plant, said Gerber, Adventure’s president. “We are selling in the affordable to mid-price segments, which are the biggest parts of the RV marketplace,” he added.
A key to Adventure’s success so far is that in the north-central Indiana community of Peru, it is drawing from a labor pool that is different from what is found in RV manufacuring hub Elkhart, Ind., which is 75 miles to the north, Gerber said.
“Elkhart is built around piece-rate salaries,” Gerber said. “Down here, the work force is hourly. That has given us the productivity of a more traditional manufacturing process than the RV industry has been raised on. Our units are built at a more gradual rate that gives a higher quality standard so that when they come off the line, we are not backed up in final finish fixing all the mistakes that have occurred up to that point.”