- The Elkhart-Goshen MSA was ranked #1 in Manufacturing for mid-sized MSAs! This is based on the Quarter 3 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics number of people employed in the industry.
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The Report is detailed with 110 positions including management, production, technology, health and transportation. Benefits information covers health insurance plans, costs, time off, retirement plans, financial incentives, training opportunities and child care assistance.
Jul 16, 2018
GOSHEN — Mounting talk of trade wars coupled with whispers of slowdowns in the automotive and RV industries have some in Elkhart County voicing concerns about what may be in store for the local economy moving forward. But according to one local business expert, those concerns are largely unfounded.
Mark Dobson, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County, provided county council members Saturday with an extensive look at his organization’s recent business attraction and expansion work both in the county and the surrounding region.
A public-private partnership serving the cities, towns, businesses and residents of Elkhart County, the EDCEC defines its mission as working to create an economically vibrant community by recruiting, retaining and strengthening the county’s economic base and being a catalyst for diversification, innovation and economic change. It pursues this mission by working with companies looking to locate or expand in Elkhart County.
Dobson’s update Saturday was provided as a lead-in to his request for the EDC’s annual funding contribution by the county, this year in the amount of $207,199. The request was later approved by the council in a unanimous vote.
According to Dobson, while it’s true there is a slowdown happening within the RV industry, that slowdown is not necessarily a sign of hard times ahead.
“You have heard rumors of layoffs, I’m sure, and there have been some,” Dobson said of the slowdown. “I have spoken to both of the locally headquartered folks, and also the folks outside of the area. There are a couple of significant things that have caused that.”
Among those, Dobson said, is a lack of technicians at the dealership level.
“So when you go in to purchase your RV, the prep effort is delayed right now because there is a lack of technicians in the market,” Dobson said. “There was also quite an exuberant 2017 RV Open House where virtually everything was ordered, and now the dealers are at the point of the 2018 RV Open House about to happen, and they are desirous to have the 2019 models, rather than the existing ones. So they are pushing back a little bit right now, saying, ‘Please, lets slow down a little bit.’”
But for those who might be tempted to view this slowdown as a portent to impending economic decline, Dobson urged caution.
“It’s actually a very healthy pause,” Dobson told the council. “It’s a time where they’re going through some process improvements and changing some things. So this is not the other shoe dropping. This is just a very healthy pause. Even at this level, they’re going to have 2018 as a record year unless the wheels completely fall off the buggy, and that would have to be something catastrophic. But this will still be a record year for the RV industry. So these are all very exciting things.”
Speaking specifically to the work of the EDC over the past half-year, Dobson again had encouraging words for the council.
“Our region, we’re St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall, Kosciusko and Fulton counties. We still represent over 50 percent of the projects that IEDC is working on (in the region),” Dobson said of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. “Year-to-date we have seven project wins accounting for about 700 new jobs to the market. In fact, we were working on one this morning that would be a very significant impact as well. There are both RV and non-RV related projects in these project wins.”
Dobson said the EDC is also working on 12 active attraction projects within the county, and has even been working with a foreign direct consultant in trying to appeal to companies outside of the U.S. to relocate to the region.
“We are seeing some interest in locating in the United States,” Dobson said. “We also have 28 business retention and expansion projects we’re working on throughout the county. These are all businesses, all classes, again in the industrial and manufacturing space. We don’t help Kohls or Target expand, but we do help the manufacturing space with what’s going on there.
“Then, as always, we respond to state leads that fit Elkhart County,” Dobson added of the EDC’s work. “We have submitted 20 RFIs to the state this year. These would be the types of projects that would be huge. These are the 500,000 square feet, 1,000 job-type opportunities.”
One particularly positive thing that has come out of the EDC’s work this year is the group’s increasing interaction with site consultants from outside of the region, Dobson explained, noting that it has long been an EDC goal to get Elkhart County’s name outside of the Elkhart County area.
“We all know how good this county is, but we weren’t doing a great job necessarily of marketing ourselves to the world,” Dobson said of the EDC’s earlier work. “Site consultants now are coming to us with project opportunities, they’re asking us if certain buildings fit… We’re having a level of engagement with site consultants that we’ve not had in the past. So I think we are starting to bear that fruit, and what will be helpful about that is that will help us find some of that diversity in the industry outside of what we do so well in this community.”
Speaking to the well-known labor shortage in Elkhart County, Dobson pointed to things such as the EDC’s www.elkhartcountyworks.com website and a push to integrate ex-offenders into the marketplace as some of the organization’s ongoing efforts to try and help bridge that labor gap.
“We’ve had good interest and success early on with bringing ex-offenders to the marketplace or to employers,” Dobson said. “These are not people who are just released from jail and said good luck and goodbye. They have to have completed some leadership training, they’ve had to get a certificate while incarcerated, they’ve had to actually go through a process. The leadership training is actually the same that we do in our office.”
And according to Dobson, that push to tap the county’s ex-offender pool is paying off.
“We were not sure that employers would be enthused, but they seem more enthused about that as compared to the efforts we’ve been going through to bring retiring veterans from the military to the community,” Dobson said. “We’ve probably spent more time on the veterans, and have had the least amount of success. It’s just been a challenge translating the skills of the military to the skills necessary in the market, and the market was so heated up that businesses didn’t have time to do that translation. But we continue to work with INvets. It’s a statewide effort to bring vets here, and we continue to participate with them.”
Rounding out the EDC’s top goals for 2018 are plans for an in-depth study of the county’s industry diversity, Dobson explained.
“We know we are the best in the world at RVs. Nobody does better than this region building RVs,” Dobson said. “These same companies though are more diverse today than ever, and what we really don’t know, because of the way the federal government reports businesses, is how diverse, really, are we? We do need to do a better analysis of that, and that’s something we’ll launch in the fourth quarter of this year.”
Following Dobson’s presentation, Councilman John Letherman joined others on the council in praising the EDC’s work, noting that he feels the organization has really upped its game in recent years, and the results are evident.
“You’ve kind of moved up to the next level for the last couple three years, and it’s really great to see you taking charge of some things that maybe in some ways we hadn’t even thought about before,” Letherman said.
For more information about the EDC and its work, visit www.elkhartcountybiz.com.
Elkhart County Council members approved a resolution Saturday morning for East To West And North To South RV, a division of Forest River, supporting a 5-year tax phase-in agreement that could bring 325 new full-time jobs to the county.
A tax phase-in is a partial or temporary exemption of a company from having to pay property taxes with the express purpose of stimulating economic development.
Introducing the phase-in request was Mark Dobson, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.
“We are competing for an opportunity for the second phase, which would be the first expansion, of East 2 West And North To South RV,” Dobson said of the project, which is located at the intersection of John Weaver Parkway and C.R. 6 in Elkhart. “This represents kind of a new way to do things. It’s simplification of the manufacturing process, simplification of the floor plans, especially at an entry level, which should result in a higher quality recreational vehicle and cut down on the flaws as they come out of the factory.”
Dobson noted that building has already commenced on the company’s first two facilities, and the county will be competing for the third and fourth buildings the company has planned for construction.
“I’m very excited about what this could mean, because just sort of from form and function, quite often in a trailer operation, there are 28 floor plans with 50 different color combinations, and you could imagine what that does to cost and quality situations when you have so many variations coming down the line,” Dobson said. “There will be fewer floor plans, fewer options, it should streamline the manufacturing process, it should improve the skill of the trades of the people who are working on them, bring something to the market at a little bit lower cost than the competition, and I think it represents kind of a strengthening of the RV process.”
The collection of information from area businesses serves an important purpose. Local employers are provided with benchmark data on average wages and benefits for over 100 different occupations, resulting in a report that is one of their key resources when setting or negotiating wages and benefits. As with any survey, the quality of the report depends on the quality of the data submitted. Please help by answering all of the questions completely and accurately.
ELKHART — A proposed $175 million complex on the east side of Elkhart could bring several unique medical service providers, including a company that specializes in proton therapy for cancer, to the region.
Officials took the first step last week to turn a 117-acre parcel at the northeast corner of County Road 17 and the St. Joseph Valley Parkway or Bypass into a Tax Increment Financing or TIF district. The measure would allow real estate taxes collected on the new development to be used for roads and other necessary improvements and services.
Some of those medical services could include proton cancer therapy, brain trauma, memory care and treatment for opioid addiction, officials said. There also could be schools focused on nursing and other aspects of medicine.
Proton therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses protons — rather than X-rays — to attack tumors. Because protons allow for more precision, there are fewer side effects, in large part because there is less damage to healthy tissue, according to the National Association for Proton Therapy.
There currently are fewer than 30 locations in the United States with proton therapy, but there are about 10 more under construction or in development. Proton therapy treats many solid cancer tumors, including tumors of the brain, central nervous system, eye, gastrointestinal tract, head and neck, liver, lung, prostate, spine and some breast tumors, the association said, adding that it’s especially important when treating children because of their smaller size.
Jim O’Connor, president of the Philadelphia company that will develop the land in Elkhart under the name 1720 Land Development Co., said three medical service providers have already committed to the project and a fourth is very close.
“The chances of this not happening are almost non-existent,” O’Connor said. “But we’re precluded from providing details because of non-disclosure agreements.”
The land was assembled more than 10 years ago with the idea of using it for medical-related purposes. But development fell through largely because of the recession, said Mark Dobson, head of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County.
But a couple of years ago, city and county officials began talking to a developer who liked the site, in large part because of the regional connectivity created by the Bypass and the Indiana Toll Road about four miles to the north.
Dobson confirmed that the services being proposed for the site will largely complement or enhance the medical strength of the region rather than compete against existing services.
The project could eventually grow to nine buildings and could support as many as 300 to 500 jobs, he said. That’s especially important to Elkhart County, which has been been interested in diversifying its manufacturing-based economy since it was hammered during the recession.
Planners also expect the development might attract hotels, restaurants and additional offices in much the same way new businesses sprang up around St. Joseph Regional Medical Center when it relocated to Mishawaka.
Jeff Rea, president and CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the Elkhart site is a good one for medical development because it offers easy access for most of the region. In that way, it’s similar to the land that was developed for medical use on the south side of Mishawaka at Elm Road and the Bypass several years ago.
And if the project enhances existing services or brings new ones to the market, the entire region will benefit since it will augment our standing as a regional medical center.
“Health care and higher education have been two of the fastest growing segments of our local economy in recent years,” Rea said. “If the Elkhart project adds something new, it could help the entire market.”
The Elkhart Health, Fitness, Aquatics and Community Center will be a new home for high school swim teams and community members wanting to socialize and get a workout.
It’s also designed to be a gathering spot for book clubs, card games, yoga classes, and people working on their health, whether it’s to maintain it or get it back.
The plan is for the programming to be crafted as the building itself is constructed, but Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, can envision on any given day, the center will have volleyball league games, community open swimming, triathletes gathering to train, a healthy cooking class and a Medicare enrollment event.
ELKHART, Ind.—The self-proclaimed RV capital of the world gives a glimpse of what the American economy looks like when operating at full tilt.
High-school students around here skip college for factory jobs that offer great pay and benefits. For-hire signs sprout like roadside weeds. And workers are so flush that car dealers can’t keep new pickups on the lot.
Leading the economic study is consulting firm enFocus, working in close partnership with the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County. As part of the larger study, the 2018 Employer Needs Assessment will survey organizations throughout Elkhart County to identify the needs of employers of varying sizes and industries. This county-wide assessment will help address current workforce realities and future employer needs, and track the needs of employers over time to align workforce development programs. For a deeper understanding of employer needs, the survey will ask questions from the following areas: general hiring practices, trending hiring difficulty, employee recruitment and retention, and attainment of skill needs. Responses from Elkhart County employers will provide insight into several research questions in these areas.
“The primary objective of our work is to use insight obtained from the assessment to design strategies that will assist in addressing imbalances that exist between labor demand, hiring, and retention to support organizations establishing, relocating, or expanding their operations in Elkhart County,” states Connor Ratycz, an enFocus Fellow working on the project.“ We are eager to see what the data analysis yields and, more importantly, gain a more comprehensive understanding of the extent to which Elkhart County businesses are experiencing hiring and retention difficulties, and the top reasons for such difficulties across industries.”
Points to Highlight