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Elkhart newspaper looks beyond RVs, housing

July 28, 2008

Sweeping diversification is necessary for the Elkhart area to snap its reliance on making recreational vehicles and manufactured housing, the Elkhart Truth opined in an editorial yesterday.

A string of layoffs and other bad news from the sectors has rocked the area this month, raising questions about a difficult future for workers who know little else, the newspaper said.

Among announcements hammering the area was Monaco Coach Corp.'s news that it would eliminate 1,400 workers by closing RV plants in Elkhart, Wakarusa and Nappanee. Also, Coachmen Industries Inc. said further layoffs were likely after plant consolidations that claimed 260 jobs.

"We find ourselves now in a time of challenge," the editorial said. "We can ignore that challenge and cling to the strategies of that have sustained us for 150 years, or we can begin the difficult process of remaking ourselves for a new century."

The Truth called on county commissioners to proceed with a proposed study of the long-term viability of RVs and manufactured housing, and "once and for all" develop a countywide economic development plan.

Perhaps the area can take advantage of its close proximity to the University of Notre Dame, and diversify into alternative energy and life sciences.

"We can become anything we choose," the Truth said. "But in the end, we must become something new. That is our challenge."
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