A manufacturer of RVs and commercial vehicles announced Tuesday it will add 425 new jobs by 2019 by expanding its operations to LaGrange.
Forest River Manufacturing LLC, an Elkhart-based company, already operates in Goshen, Millersburg, Topeka, Middlebury and Wakarusa. Now, it plans to invest $6.7 million to purchase four existing facilities in LaGrange that will cover 450,000 square feet over 100 acres, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
Renovations are already underway on three of the previously vacant facilities. The company will evaluate options for the fourth building later this year.
Forest River is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and is the second largest RV manufacturer in the nation, capturing about 37 percent of the market. The company also makes buses, pontoons, restroom trailers and mobile offices.
The company is part of the rebounding RV industry in northern Indiana, particularly in Elkhart County where a number of manufacturers are located. That industry tanked during the Great Recession, when unemployment in Elkhart County peaked at 19.6 percent. But the county’s unemployment rate is now 3.3 percent this year.
The IEDC reports that 80 percent of the world's RVs are made in Indiana.
“If you see an RV on the road, chances are it was built in Indiana,” said Gov. Mike Pence in a written statement. “As a national leader in manufacturing, Hoosiers’ hard work and innovations have built Indiana into the world’s choice location for designing and building RVs.”
The IEDC offered Forest River up to $2.5 million in conditional tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans. The incentives are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. The town of LaGrange will consider additional incentives at the request of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation.
Production could begin at one of Forest River’s new buildings by mid-January and at two more by May 2017, allowing the company to expand its Cherokee line of fifth-wheel and travel trailers.
The announcement comes less than three years after the company opened a new production facility in Bristol and equipped three facilities in Goshen. At the time, the company announced it would create a total of 185 new jobs, a goal the firm has exceeded.
Forest River currently employs 11,000 Hoosiers.