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RV industry leaders say rebound picking up speed

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The recreational vehicle industry is enjoying a smooth ride as the recession that devastated it gets further in the distance.

Key manufacturers and suppliers have announced recent expansions, the stock market is at an all-time high, and consumers are more confident in the future, industry leaders say.

"I think most people will tell you we are in a long-term growth mode that goes back to probably mid-2010 going forward," Mark Bowersox, executive director of the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council, told the South Bend Tribune.

The changes are a vast improvement over 2009, when Elkhart County's unemployment rate jumped to nearly 19 percent as the recreational vehicle industry saw orders plummet. Shipments that year sank to 165,700 units amid weak demand and dried up credit that left dealers' lots filled with the vehicles.

The rebound is also being fueled by retirements of baby boomers and an increase in the number of younger people interested in RVs, he said.

Bob Martin, president and CEO of Thor Industries, said that even though the industry can react to "any blip that could happen throughout the world," he sees steady growth for years to come.

"We still have five years of baby boomers buying into our demographic, which helps us," Martin said. "But then there's also the shifts in products that we're building that appeal to younger generations."

Martin said Gen Xers and millennials are discovering the RV lifestyle and can find travel trailers that cost less than $15,000. That's leading to a lot of first-time buyers.

"It's a great way to spend time with your family, to explore the outdoors, the national park system," Martin said. "Just reconnect with the natural beauty we have in North America."

The improvement in the RV industry has Elkhart County running out of room.

Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp., said the county is running short on sizable buildings to lease. But she said plans are in the works for 40,000- and 100,000 square-foot expandable spec buildings.

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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