By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
MIDDLEBURY — The RV industry is on its way back in Indiana, and Elkhart County has a lot to do with it.
To help relay that message, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made a brief appearance in Middlebury Thursday afternoon to help celebrate the recent expansion plans of up-and-coming RV manufacturer Grand Design RV LLC.
Surrounded by Grand Design executives, employees, team members, suppliers and their family members, Grand Design President and co-owner Don Clark announced that in the next 60 days the company plans to launch its second line of RVs — a launch which could potentially bring as many as 120 new jobs to the county.
Started by RV veterans Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech in late 2012, Grand Design’s first RV unit, the extended stay fifth-wheel known as the “Solitude,” rolled off the line on Jan. 15 to rave reviews.
“Our entry into the marketplace, the “Solitude,” has been very well received by the retail buyers — so well received that I am pleased to announce that in the next 60 days we will begin manning and staffing for Line 2,” Clark said. “Our Line 2 will produce a smaller, mid-profile fifth-wheel. After the ramping up stage of Line 2, we intend to bring approximately 120 more jobs to the community. These are exciting times for Grand Design.”
And if you ask Pence, it’s exciting news for all of Indiana as well, especially when coupled with Grand Design’s recent pledge to bring as many as 500 new jobs to the area by 2016. That’s a pledge the company has to keep, at least if it wants to take advantage of up to $2.85 million in conditional tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants recently provided to the company by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Such tax credits are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives.
“When I was first elected governor, I said we were going to make job creation job one, and today is a great example of how Hoosier entrepreneurs and Hoosier workers are coming together to create new jobs and opportunities and are bringing Indiana back,” Pence said. “Grand Design launched in the fall of 2012 and has been on a tear ever since, with plans to produce more than 1,750 units this year. We appreciate their commitment to quality and to service. This is a great moment for Elkhart County and the RV industry.”
Pence went on to thank the company for its decision to locate its headquarters and manufacturing operations in Indiana and for throwing its support behind the workers of Elkhart County.
“The desire of this company to set up a “Grand Design” here in Middlebury in Elkhart County is a tribute to many things, but it’s mostly to the skill, to the character and the work ethic of the people of Indiana, and particularly of Elkhart County,” Pence said. “We look forward to your continuing and abounding success. You are proving today two things: the Hoosier RV industry is coming back, and Indiana is open for business.”
Elkhart County Council member Dave Hess also had some words of thanks and encouragement for the fledgling RV company during Thursday’s gathering.
“Things have turned the corner, and things are improving in Elkhart County, and I think it’s a real testament to the outlook and the vision of these fine business people we’ve got here, and the fact that they chose Elkhart County not only to locate their industry, but to grow and expand their industry as well,” Hess said. “They could have probably gone anywhere they wanted to, but they chose Elkhart County because of our entrepreneurial spirit, our expertise in the RV business, and most of all, you people standing right out here, the workers in this county. I think it’s because of companies like this that the future of Elkhart County is very bright.”