Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 19, 2013

Here today and gone tomorrow

Wakarusa town manager surprised by closure


THE GOSHEN NEWS

— Word of changes at Navistar wasn’t entirely unexpected. More than 500 jobs leaving Wakarusa? That information was a surprise.

“There have been rumblings they were going to sell,” Wakarusa Town Manager Jeff Troxel said Friday afternoon. “As far as the moving of the purchase to somewhere else, that was news. ...Obviously, we didn’t want to see that happening.”

Navistar Inc. officials announced Thursday that Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV) had purchased Navistar RV assets. The sale includes the manufacturing operations for Monaco and Holiday Rambler brand RVs in Wakarusa and for Navistar’s R-Vision and Holiday Rambler towable units in Harrisburg, Ore. ASV has also entered into a multi-year leasing agreement for Navistar RV’s Elkhart facility.

Company officials said manufacturing operations in Wakarusa will be moved to ASV’s Decatur, Ind., campus, a shift that will impact 520 local workers.

No additional orders will be accepted at the Wakarusa plant moving forward, though the company plans to honor all existing orders — a plan which will likely keep the Wakarusa facility operating until approximately August.

According to ASV, Wakarusa employees will have the option of applying for positions at ASV’s Decatur campus, 22 miles south of Fort Wayne, once the transition is finalized.

Troxel sounds optimistic about both the Navistar facility and the workers affected by the sale.

“I’m fairly confident someone is going to purchase that building,” he said.

Troxel said the site includes a state-of-the-art painting facility and a fantastic office area.

“The building is pretty big,” Troxel said. “I would think somebody would want that.”

As for those Navistar workers who don’t want to move to Decatur, Troxel feels whoever buys the Navistar facility will likely have jobs for them.

Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, said the news was also a surprise to her.

She said she expects Wakarusa to secure a new occupant for the Navistar facility, but in the meantime, the EDC is working with WorkOne to assist Navistar employees prepare to look for new jobs.

“We have RV corporations who are trying to find quality workers,” Heiden-Guss said. “We would hope many of these employees from Navistar would be able to find other positions in the county due to the upswing in the RV market.”