Booming RV industry provides jobs, helps community

Published: Mar. 30, 2016 at 5:43 PM EDT
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The RV industry is booming across the country. With a 12 percent increase in shipments this February compared to last, the profits are trickling down into our local economy as well.

Statistics from the

show Elkhart County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state at 4.2 percent.

With a better economy than in recent years and a high demand for product, one local RV manufacturer is experiencing the growth firsthand.

In just a year's time, Grand Design RV in Middlebury has increased its workforce by over 40 percent.

“We’d never see this type of growth without the employee base that we have,” said Don Clark, CEO & Co-Owner, Grand Design RV.

At the start of 2015, Grand Design RV had about 540 employees on its roster.

“We really try to give them as much influence in the direction of our company, and it's working,” said Clark.

In just one year, the company now employs more than 760 people.

“We’re busting at the seams. We're blessed. It's pretty cool. We've got a great workforce,” said Clark.

“Employment is interesting because at one time we were leading the nation in unemployment and now we're one of the leaders in employment,” said Kyle Hannon, President, Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.

An increase in jobs means a higher demand for product.

“We’re pretty closely tied to the RV industry, a very, very important industry in this community. News about this, that the industry continues to do very well means our overall economy is going to do very well,” said Hannon.

Grand Design RV’s CEO says it's the ‘baby boomers’ shelling out the cash...but also ‘millennials.’

“A lot of them grew up camping so they want to continue that kind of lifestyle and take their new families,” said Clark.

“When these things are selling like crazy, it’s showing there's a discretionary income out there,” said Hannon.

So how long will it last?

“As far as the economy stays strong and the demand is there for the product, we'll continue growing,” said Clark.

“The RV industry…how long is this going to last? How long is it going to last? But really there's no sign that it's slowing down anytime soon,” said Hannon.

Grand Design RV has no plans of reducing its speed when it comes to growth. As part of its expansion program, it will be adding a brand new manufacturing facility and state-of-the-art service center across from its current plant by the end of 2016.

The company has yet to break ground on the new project but contracts and permit approvals are in place. It's expected by the end of this year Grand Design RV will employ well over 800 people.