N. Indiana Expansion Drives Hope For Banner Year In RV Industry

Jan 3, 2017

A northern Indiana RV-maker will add more than 400 new jobs in LaGrange County in the next two years, as the region’s mainstay industry continues to rebound.

Forest River is one of northern Indiana’s leading recreational vehicle manufacturers, employing 11,000 Hoosiers in Elkhart and LaGrange counties.

It now plans to repurpose several empty factories in the small town of LaGrange and add 425 jobs. It’s receiving tax incentives from the town and state to do so.

County economic development corporation CEO Ryne Krock says the factories Forest River is buying weren’t originally part of the RV industry, but he’s glad to see them occupied, and hopes it’ll spur new housing and other economic growth, too.

“We always would like to diversify,” Krock says. “But the way the economy is going and the way the industry is going and the demand for the product and, quite honestly, the wages that they’re paying their employees, we’re going to take it while it’s good and do whatever we can to support them.”

Of all RVs sold worldwide, more than 80 percent are made in northern Indiana. But the industry is still recovering from a major slump in the recession. In 2016, it lost factories, cut some jobs and struggled to fill others.

Krock says consolidation, low gas prices and consumers’ lifestyle changes are helping boost profits. RV sales are set to rise for the eighth year running in 2017, to a projected 161 percent above 2009 lows.