In 2012, Elkhart County ranked number-one in the nation for job growth.
While the rest of the country averaged 1.9 percent growth, Elkhart County experienced a remarkable 7.4 percent. Back in July, NewsCenter 16 reported the county's manufacturing industry added some 5,479 jobs. But when Elkhart made headlines for its high unemployment years ago, it's no surprise its recovery is equally notable.
During the the summer organizations like Work One continued to help with job numbers; placing unemployed individuals into new and vacant positions. Additional hiring by individual businesses also contributed to the path toward recovery.
It is well-known that Elkhart County's economy is inextricably linked to the RV industry. When Americans stopped buying RVs at the time of the recession the entire county suffered.
Kip Ellis, vice president of sales and marketing at Atwood Mobile Products said 2013 has been a good year for the entire industry. Atwood is one of the many businesses that manufactures RV components, and as such is dependent on RV sales for its own growth.
Ellis said the recovery didn’t occur in “leaps and bounds,” instead it’s been a gradual five-year process.
Manufacturing in Elkhart County was forced to “wise up” in order to survive. Companies like Atwood have made new investments, slowly hired employees and adjusted to match consumer sentiment.
Over the past few years the economic climate in Elkhart has improved. Businesses are leaner and more efficient. According to the Chamber of Commerce, the task at hand is looking towards creating new types of jobs and figuring out where businesses encounter red tape.
“We’re always looking to attract any business that's interested in coming here, and they should,” said Hannon. Some of those industries include new technology and medical corporations.
There are already signs of new industry. Elkhart’s Waterford Commons business park was deemed “shovel ready” by the state—meaning the 220 acre site has established boundaries, standards for construction, access to utilities and is prepared to welcome businesses.
The outlook for 2014, according to the Recreational Vehicle Association, is promising. The RVA projects about a four to five percent upswing from this year’s already improved growth.
In September thousands of RV dealers flocked to Elkhart County for Open House week. Manufacturers and suppliers say the showing indicates a positive buzz for the industry at-large, and has industry leaders saying they're optimistic for next year.