GOSHEN — Forest River Inc. will cap a production milestone with a community-minded giveaway.
The company’s bus division will celebrate the production of its 100,000th unit by presenting a custom bus to an organization in need.
Entrants have until midnight Friday, Sept. 6, to submit emails describing what their organization does, who it serves and why it would be the best choice for a free bus. Emails should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’ve sold a ton of them and are really blessed as a company,” said David Wright, president of Forest River bus division. “So we thought, why don’t we build one of these and give back to an organization in need that might not be able to afford to buy a new bus.”
A team of four people — two bus industry figures not employed by Forest River and two people from two different local nonprofits — have been tasked with reviewing submissions, Wright said, with “well over 100” entries already submitted.
“We figured that’s a good balance between not-for-profit people who are already serving in the community and people in the industry that would know where buses could go and what those needs are,” he said of the committee.
A winner will be announced Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the Forest River Product Expo, located near C.R. 6 and C.R 101 in Elkhart, where the 100,000th bus will also be on display. The company will then confer with the winning organization to determine its specific needs before production, a process that typically takes eight to 10 weeks.
Under the Forest River bus umbrella are six brands — Battisti Customs, Berkshire Coach, Elkhart Coach, Glaval Bus, Starcraft Bus and StarTrans Bus — with roughly 25 models produced, Wright said.
“It’s very competitive,” he said of the national market. “About half the business in the country would be to government, state or local agencies, you know, to run routes like we do here in Goshen.”
The other half of business, Wright explained, is retail, in which a customer purchases one or two vehicles, often for churches, YMCAs, hotels, airports or universities.
Wright estimated about 14,000 to 15,000 buses are produced annually between all U.S. manufacturers, with Forest River’s brands producing about 9,000 to 10,000 units.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t give away more, because we’ve received tremendous stories and emails on all these people that serving different groups throughout the United States and Canada,” Wright said.
“It’s pretty exciting.”