A small Elkhart company has landed an enormous government contract.
It’s come a long way over the past 20 years when it started with only two employees.
Transhield Inc. on Elkhart’s north side has grown by leaps and bounds since being founded in the 90s.
They make tarps and fitted coverings for use in aviation, boating, rail, automotive and the military.
Each tarp is custom engineered, not off the shelf.
“We started with two employees, originally Greg Todt and myself, and now we’ve grown to over 70 employees here within the community,” said Transhield President Jim Glick.
Their hard work paid off for military products.
Some have unit emblems or logos on them. They’re made for everything from ships and tanks to track vehicles and weapons systems.
The Department of Defense just awarded Transhield a nearly $8 million contract. They’ll make tarps and fitted covers for the Army and Navy.
It’s a contract they’ve been looking into for the past year and a half.
“We’d been working on it, we weren’t sure of the timing on it, and we weren’t sure, you know, exactly how it was all going to play out, but we had had been working on it, so we’re very excited to actually get the award,” said Glick.
He says the new DoD contract runs from now through 2023. Currently there are 70 workers employed, but he new contract could mean that more could be added.
“We look forward to fulfilling this contract and look for further contracts going forward,” said Glick. “We are always looking to increase our employee count here in Elkhart.”
He says the new military contract bodes well for Transhield employees, as well as the future of the company.
INDIANAPOLIS – Butler University has been named the top regional university in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report. This is the third straight year the Indianapolis school has been ranked number one in the category of the publication’s annual ranking of 389 universities and colleges.
“These rankings reflect the ongoing excellence of our academic programs and exceptional student experience,” said Butler President James Danko. “As we continue to pursue our goal of expanding student access and success through the Butler Beyond strategic direction, we are committed to extending this valuable, quality education to a broader set of learners for the good of our community.”
The publication’s annual report ranks institutions in a variety of categories, such as national universities, regional universities, regional colleges, and assorted subcategories. The state of Indiana is represented in many of those fields.
In terms of national universities, the University of Notre Dame finished the highest among institutions in the state, coming in at No. 19. Purdue University comes in at No. 53, Indiana University-Bloomington is No. 76.
In addition to Butler’s No. 1 ranking among Midwest universities, the University of Evansville comes in No. 4. The region covers 12 states that stretches from South Dakota to Kansas and from Nebraska to Ohio.
Among Midwestern colleges, the U.S. News survey places Taylor University in Upland at No. 2. The school said it is the 24th consecutive year for Taylor to be ranked in the top three positions.
Goshen College comes in at No. 7 in the list of best regional Midwest colleges.
That was the consensus Wednesday morning (Sept. 10) at the official groundbreaking on the Ivy Tech campus in Elkhart, where leaders from the community college and the community at large celebrated the impact they foresee, as well as how fast the project, proposed last summer, is moving.
The iFlex Lab, located immediately east of the existing Elkhart campus building, will allow Ivy Tech to embrace new technologies that local employees will need to learn for Elkhart County to lead the nation in manufacturing, according to several speakers. One of those speakers was U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2, who spoke via video link.
“By the charge of who we are, we obviously want to lead and not follow when it comes to manufacturing, and the iFlex Laboratory is right on point to be able to do that,” she said. “Our present and future workforce will require advanced technical and computer skills to remain second to none.”
The threat automation poses to workers is real, she said. But by embracing technologies such as mechatronics and robotics, the local workforce can stay ahead.
Photo by Gregg Fore
Ivy Tech’s new 10,000-square-foot facility will offer training for people seeking to follow those and other paths, including industrial maintenance and computer-aided design. The space will also allow Ivy Tech to “flex” over the next 10 to 15 years and become more future-focused, especially as Industry 4.0 and the “internet of things” expands.
Construction of the iFlex Lab is estimated to cost $3.8 million. The Community College has received funding for the project from multiple sources, including the tax increment finance fund of C.R. 17 and C.R. 6, from which the project received $1.47 million. From the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Network, funded by the Lilly Endowment, the project received $1 million.
The hope is to have the facility fully operational by the fall of 2021, according to the chancellor for the South Bend-Elkhart campus, David Balkin. Meeting that goal has required the community college and its collaborators to work at an unusual speed, he said.
“No Ivy Tech building, since the founding of the college in 1963, has been conceived, designed and constructed faster than the one that’s going up behind you,” he said. “We’re moving so fast, I’m thrilled that we’re able to squeeze in this groundbreaking before the building opens for classes.”
Elkhart County Commissioner Suzie Weirick praised the collaboration between the many involved community stakeholders who all see the need for keeping the local workforce ready for the future.
Elkhart County, known as the RV capital of the world, is dependent on RV manufacturing to a point that many local leaders share a belief that the local economy must become more diverse. The RV industry offers many employment opportunities in good times but was hit hard during the Great Recession, resulting in high unemployment rates locally. Weirick said that, with the workforce being developed at Ivy Tech’s new facility, Elkhart County will further its ability to attract new businesses, which should result in a more diverse economy.
Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann said the project is not just about the community as a whole, but also the individuals who will come through the iFlex Lab programs. “Together we really are changing lives, one student at a time, while building a stronger workforce, stronger industry, stronger employers, stronger local economy,” she said. Though construction had already begun, officials “broke ground” for the new iFlex Lab at Ivy Tech in Elkhart on Wednesday.
As reported yesterday by RVBusiness, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt was joined by U.S. Senator Todd Young and U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) as they highlighted the importance of outdoor recreation and the resurgence of the American economy during a Wednesday (Aug. 19) visit to East To West RV, according to a release from the Interior Dept.
Following a tour of the facility’s manufacturing operations, Forest River Inc. and East To West RV signed President Trump’s Pledge to America’s Workers, committing to invest in their workforce and expand job opportunities in Indiana.
Since 2018, more than 440 companies have signed the Pledge to America’s Workers, committing to support more then 16.3 million job and training-related opportunities for American workers. More Americans are getting back to work as the economy continues to rebound and reopen. Over the past three months, 9.3 million jobs have been added.
“The Trump Administration is working to enhance the visitor experience on our public lands – places like the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge – so more Hoosiers can enjoy recreating in the great outdoors,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Many recreational visitors utilize RVs to experience national parks, refuges and campgrounds throughout the country. I applaud these business leaders’ commitment to support the Pledge to the America’s Workers and for providing great job opportunities in Elkhart, the RV capital of the world.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act will support tens of thousands of jobs in the state of Indiana,” Senator Young said. “Aside from National Parks themselves, no other industry will benefit as much from the GAOA as the RV industry. When parks are well-kept, when facilities are maintained and improved, and when conservation is prioritized, people naturally will want to visit these national treasures, many of which are right here in Indiana.”
“Manufacturers in Elkhart – the RV Capital of the World – know the importance of investing in the current and future American workforce,” said Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02). “Their commitment to building opportunities and creating jobs for hardworking Hoosiers will be key to our economic recovery. As we continue to rebuild our nation’s economy, the Great American Outdoors Act will improve access to our public lands and give Indiana’s outdoor recreation industry an added boost. I’m grateful for the leadership of President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt in protecting our national parks, defending the American worker and supporting Hoosier manufacturing.”
“Our country’s iconic national parks are one of the most favored destinations for RVers. We are grateful to the leadership of Secretary Bernhardt in ensuring these public lands receive the funding they deserve,” said RV Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Jay Landers. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Secretary and his team as they implement the Great American Outdoors Act to identify projects that will make the biggest impact to improve the access, safety, and enjoyment of RVers for generations to come.”
“East to West RV is excited to sign President Trump’s Pledge to America’s Workers as we are committed to hiring more great employees and helping them grow with our company,” said Lisa Rees Co-General Manager of East to West RV.
At East to West RV, Secretary Bernhardt discussed the Department of the Interior’s (Interior) role in facilitating outdoor recreation across the country, managing approximately 500 million acres of land, and how RVs help the public visit America’s national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.
More than 80 percent of RVs sold in the US are manufactured in Indiana with demand increasing throughout the United States amid COVID-19. In Elkhart County, the RV Industry has an annual economic impact of $14.5 billion and supports nearly 35,000 jobs, 178 businesses and pays $2.5 billion in wages.
Following the tour and signing at East to West RV, Secretary Bernhardt traveled to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to meet with National Park Service employees and inspect facilities that have deferred maintenance needs. The Great American Outdoors Act, recently signed by President Trump, provides $1.9 billion a year for the next five years to address deferred maintenance needs at national parks, refuges, American Indian schools and other public lands throughout the country.
Wednesday, June 24th 2020, 12:07 PM EDT Updated: Wednesday, June 24th 2020, 12:18 PM EDT By Mary Willkom, Writer/Reporter
The SonSetLink Water Monitor was voted ‘Coolest Thing Made in Elkhart County’ (photo courtesy of Made in Elkhart County)
ELKHART COUNTY – The Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “Coolest Thing Made in Elkhart County” campaign has named its winner. The SonSetLink Water Monitor, developed and built by SonSet Solutions, earned the top honors.
The water monitor is a universal satellite monitoring system that reports data on the health of water systems in underdeveloped countries. SonSet says the system can track information such as the number of gallons flowing from a single system as well as the levels of chlorination in the water.
Inspired by the Vibrant Communities initiative in Elkhart County, the campaign culminated with a public vote. The bureau says SonSetLink Water Monitor received nearly 25% of all votes.
More than 4,000 votes were cast between June 1 and June 15 for 30 different products from ice cream to RVs. The campaign was first announced in January.
The winner was announced via the Made in Elkhart County Facebook page on Wednesday.
SonSet says it has deployed more than 750 water monitoring units to more than 25 countries across the world so far.
Both teach kids about business and are selling hand sanitizer to benefit both programs and those dealing with the coronavirus.
“It was our thought when we first thought to join together that we would like to continue together to support our programs in entrepreneurship, and one way we could do that is selling hand sanitizer as a fundraiser,” said Jessica Hilary.
The money would go back to both non-profits.
It was made possible with help from Kem Krest, a chemical packaging company providing the hand sanitizer.
“We were able to work with Amish Shah and Kem Krest, who in their true entrepreneurial spirt has pivoted one of their business units as well to produce hand sanitizer,” said Lizzie Sheets. “We do need to raise funds and this is a great opportunity.”
The company had initially started producing hand sanitizer back in March as a response to shortages, especially for first responders and organizations on the front lines of the pandemic.
To help out, they increased production.
Both organizations will be selling a box of 12 bottles for $50 for the fundraiser. Now, if you have enough sanitizer, you can buy an extra box and donate it to Elkhart County schools.
“During this challenging time, we do need to raise funds and so this is great opportunity,” said Sheets.
The fundraiser runs through June 17. Starting June 18, orders can be picked up at Jimtown High School.
The Governor announced that majority of the state will begin to enter what he refers to as Stage 2 of a 5-phased reopening of the economy on Monday, May 4th. Marion and Lake Counties may move to Stage 2 on May 11th. Cass County may begin move to Stage 2 on May 18th.
At-risk Hoosiers, including those over age 65, should remain at home at this time. Stage 2 requires a gradual elimination of restrictions, depending upon a variety of circumstances.
Even upon reaching Stage 5 on July 4th, the Governor indicated that social distancing will still be required and remote work will still be encouraged. The Governor is still working on a plan for the next school year.
All remaining manufacturing businesses may open upon moving to Stage 2. Detailed guidelines and timeframes for the Governor’s plan may be found at the Back on Track Indiana website.
Purdue MEP – Providing direct support to help plan, prepare, protect, and recover manufacturing operations
Since March 2020, Purdue MEP has worked via our Critical PPE Manufacturing Initiative with real-time information, resources, and tools related to the efforts to manufacture urgently-needed medical PPE during this evolving global pandemic. Every day, we are helping companies remove barriers to PPE production to get critical supplies into the hands of front-line healthcare workers and their patients.
Over 100 companies are utilizing these services and we plan to assist more in the critical days and weeks to come. For examples of our work, visit our Success Story page.
Success Spotlight – Purdue MEP – A National Resource
Purdue MEP is not only helping with COVID-19 PPE efforts here in Indiana – we are also collaborating with MEP Centers across the nation to provide PPE to frontline healthcare workers.
Purdue MEP recently worked with the Virginia MEP Center to assist a hospital in their state. Purdue MEP connected the hospital with suppliers who were able to provide them with coveralls, face shields, and infrared thermometers.
A North Carolina medical organization recently needed a source for goggles. Purdue MEP was able to provide them with a local Indiana company that had the ability to supply them with the needed items.
Free Webinar Next Week from the Indiana Manufacturers Association
Success Spotlight – Continuing Direct Assistance to Indiana Hospitals
An Indiana hospital needed a supply of fingertip pulse oximeters to provide to discharged COVID-19 patients to monitor their health as they continue to recover. Purdue MEP was able to successfully connect the hospital to a company with an available supply of these useful diagnostic tools.
Resource List Available on Purdue MEP Site for Employers
Purdue MEP is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. Our greatest concern is for the health, safety, and well-being of our employees, our clients and their staff, and our communities. In this current state, we remain fully committed to our mission of serving Indiana manufacturers.
If your organization is in need of PPE to operate, please submit your company’s information on this form, and one of our staff members will be in touch to assist your company.
Managing Stress Webinar by Purdue MEP, May 11th 1pm to 1:30pm – FREE
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Coping with this stress will help your organization become stronger. In this workshop, you’ll learn about how stress affects the body and assess your own stress level. You’ll also learn tools for identifying sources of stress and learn proven techniques for managing stress.
To participate in this online offering, please complete this registration form. All participants will receive WebEx instructions the day of the event.
Purdue COVID-19 MEP Resources:
Online Problem Solving Course
In any workplace, problems arise every day that need to be solved. In a manufacturing environment, solving problems can be challenging due to the large number of interrelated systems that exist in the typical manufacturing plant. For example, is a high defect rate due to issues with incoming materials, operator techniques, machine settings, or all of these?
In this course, you’ll learn about how the Plan-Do-Check-Act method of problem solving, the A3 problem solving tool, and the root-cause analysis technique form a foundation for effective problem solving. You’ll also learn how to use additional problem solving tools, including Pareto charts and fishbone diagrams. Together, this new knowledge and skill will help you solve problems in a more streamlined and efficient manner, making you a valuable resource within your organization.
In manufacturing environments, a proactive approach to safety, with involvement from employees at all levels, can increase employee productivity and commitment, save money, and improve the organization’s reputation. In this course, you’ll learn how lean manufacturing concepts, such as eliminating the eight wastes, can be used to improve safety; you’ll also learn the fundamentals of building a culture of safety commitment as opposed to compliance.
Prior to the pandemic, Indiana was enjoying a 20-year economic success story that empowered the state to become a leader in the Midwest and a national competitor. To assist in re-establishing that status, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has formalized a robust public policy agenda of potential actions to help ensure short-term relief and long-term economic growth for businesses.
NDIANAPOLIS (May 1, 2020) – Governor Eric J. Holcomb today announced a new marketplace for personal protective equipment (PPE) that will serve as an added resource for Indiana small businesses returning to work in the coming weeks. The Indiana Small Business PPE Marketplace, which is expected to launch next week, will ensure reliable access to PPE for small businesses and nonprofits lacking the resources needed to comply with safe workplace guidance during the reopening.
“As we look toward a safe and responsible reopening across the state, we’re working to remove barriers for entrepreneurs and small business owners that could limit or delay progress,” Gov. Holcomb said. “The Indiana Small Business PPE Marketplace is another tool that will help support small businesses during this unprecedented time, ensuring they are able to continue operating while providing needed safety measures to protect workers and customers alike.”
The Marketplace, developed by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) in partnership with the Indiana Small Business Development Center and the Indiana Office of Technology, will leverage PPE that is being manufactured and sourced by Indiana businesses across the state to help support supplies.
In order to be eligible to utilize the Marketplace, an organization must:
Be a business or nonprofit organization registered to do business in Indiana with the Indiana Secretary of State;
Employ less than 150 associates; and
Be identified in the reopening plan as an entity that must use PPE as a condition of operating in order to comply with safe workplace requirements.
All businesses and nonprofits are encouraged to first source and procure PPE on their own with the Marketplace serving as an alternate backstop for employers. While the state will make every effort to provide needed supplies, it cannot guarantee the integrity of the PPE supply chain due to increasing demands worldwide. All requests will be evaluated and fulfilled based on work environment risk profile, stock availability, and the number of outstanding requests. At times, partial or delayed fulfillment of requests may occur.
The Indiana Small Business PPE Marketplace is another step forward for the IEDC, which has been working to secure PPE for the state’s hospitals, first responders, long-term care facilities and healthcare providers treating COVID-19 patients. To date, the state has secured commitments for more than 7.84 million pieces of PPE – up from 6.3 million reported last week – with more than 2 million items already delivered to the Indiana State Department of Health for distribution.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Indiana is home to approximately 104,335 small businesses that employ 941,578 Hoosiers across the state. To learn more about COVID-19 resources and no-cost counseling available to Indiana entrepreneurs and small businesses, visit isbdc.org/indianacovid19smallbusiness.
As the RV industry works to reopen amid myriad procedural changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, staying abreast of current conditions and providing support in any way possible is how the head of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County (EDC) described his organization’s role.
“We have been speaking to – I guess the ‘Big Three’ is the best way to describe them – and we’ve tried to stay apprised of what their plans are,” said Chris Stager, EDC president and CEO. “We have discussed some of their PPE needs and we have discussed some spacing issues, but they obviously have access to some of the same information that we do.”
He said the focus is to have the safest work environment possible as the industry reopens next week He believes it will be a phased-in approach based on which elements of the supply chain are ready to support the industry.
And what an industry.
In 2018, according U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 90% all U.S. RV manufacturing happened in Elkhart County. According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, prior to the pandemic there were more than 70,000 manufacturing jobs in the county. Total jobs exceeded 137,000. Elkhart County represents 3% of the Indiana’s population, yet accounted for 13.5% of the state’s manufacturing jobs. Some 18,000 Elkhart County workers filed unemployment claims over the past two months. Depending on April numbers, the county’s unemployment rate could reach 15%. Before the pandemic, the rate was 2.7%.
“Obviously, we know that along with the RV sector, we’re (Elkhart County) tied to the automotive sector, and we don’t have real clear delineation from the automotive sector, exactly, of their timing for coming back,” Stager said.
While, clearly, all industry players are talking to their suppliers, Stager noted that because some of Elkhart County’s supply chain works in both automotive and RV sectors, the EDC is trying to assist by being a centralized clearinghouse of information on supply and compliance issues across all industries.
“Pretty much every manufacturer has told us on the way coming back that production will be based on their projections,” he said. “It’s no different than it was a year ago. They’re going to look at what the dealer inventories are and try to be smart about how they run their manufacturing.” Stager said the EDC is excited to see the plants reopening and sees the potential for an upswing going forward.
“The RV sector may benefit from some of the quarantine policies that are out there,” he said, as consumers eschew overseas travel, cruise ships and airlines. “How that all parlays itself into actual sales, we have to wait and see. Discretionary income, I guess, would be out there to do that. Certainly it makes sense from a lot of perspectives that people will want to control the environment they’re in. I think we’ll see much more domestic travel.”
Looking ahead in a support role for the RV industry, Stage said the EDC is focused on workforce development. His organization works with the Purdue Minority Engineering Program (MEP).
“Though Purdue hasn’t had a ton of interaction with the OEM sector, we are working at how you rework a production line so that social distancing is happening,” he said, “Or how you re-engineer the value stream on the manufacturing line to make it safer and more compliant.” He also mentioned that the EDC was “very pleased” to see the RV Industry Association establish its training facility in Elkhart.
On the technology front, he noted the COVID-19 crisis has likely changed the way technology will be integrated into the workforce and the EDC already was working toward improvements in local technology infrastructure.
“As a countywide initiative, we started a year ago to make sure that all of our manufacturing partners have good broadband,” he said. “We’re working on a local fiber connection and some of our supply chain partners – Lippert and a few others – have expressed interest in that and some of our OEMs have expressed interest in that.”
He said in the near future, “We will continue to see more automation creep into the production processes and better management of labor.”
Prior to the pandemic, Elkhart County enjoyed extremely low unemployment, but where that number winds up after the pandemic isn’t clear. In any case, EDC is prepared to confront any workforce problems.
“As an organization, we have a tool called Elkhart County Works, he said. “It’s aggregates Indeed, Monster, Career Builder and the state job lines. We’re updating that web page so that if we have pockets of businesses that are looking to hire, or workers who were displaced because of the pandemic, they’ll have a resource where they can go to single spot to look for work or workers.”