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The EDC of Elkhart County will leverage our entrepreneurial spirit, expertise and regional resources to develop a more prosperous community through a diversified, resilient and knowledge based economy.
Everything’s set for the 2020 RV Industry Power Breakfast on the morning of Dec. 3 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Northern Indiana Event Center in Elkhart, Ind., a popular annual event held in the heart of the RV-manufacturing center that was rescheduled from its original mid-May date due to pandemic considerations.
On tap for this year’s live-and-in-person breakfast – now planned for the same week that the industry’s traditional Lousiville Show was held for 54 years prior to its 2017 cancellation — are presentations by the RV Industry Association (RVIA) and Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) plus an “RV Executive Summit” featuring the chief executives of Thor Industries Inc., Forest River Inc. and Winnebago Industries Inc., the industry’s three highest volume manufacturers.
Also on the agenda – with Congress in session — is a remote interview with U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, a southern Indiana Republican whose family-held firm, Meyer Distributing, is an aftermarket parts and accessories distributor in the automotive and RV industries. Plans also call for a short video visit from U.S. Rep Jackie Walorski, a 2nd District South Bend Congresswoman with close ties to the RV sector.
Tickets for the Power Breakfast, which now follows by a month the presidential elections, go on sale Oct. 26, with details to follow.
“Ordinarily, you’d never really have to post a reminder at a time like this that an event like the RV Industry Power Breakfast is indeed being held as planned,” said BJ Thompson, an Elkhart, Ind.-based marketing executive who coordinates the Power Breakfast in conjunction with an ad hoc oversight committee and RVBusiness magazine.
“However, these aren’t ordinary times, as everyone knows, and significant events are being cancelled right and left,” he added, “and we just want everyone to know that that’s not the case with the Power Breakfast, where things are very much in place.”
This year’s Power Breakfast is sponsored by Airxcel, Cummins Inc., Winnebago Industries Inc., Dometic Corp., Wells Fargo CDF, Forest River Inc., KOA, Spartan Motors Inc., RVIA and Thor Industries.
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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.
Barletta Boat Co., a Bristol, Ind.-based manufacturer of pontoon boats, will expand its operations in Elkhart County and nearly double its Indiana workforce, creating up to 250 new jobs over the next few years, according to a report by The Goshen News.
“With homegrown Hoosier companies like Barletta at the helm, Indiana will continue driving its economy forward, positioning our state for long-term economic stabilization and growth,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger. “We’re proud that Barletta continues to call Indiana home, and grateful for the company’s commitment to growing its footprint and nearly doubling its workforce in Elkhart County.”
The company will invest $7 million to construct and equip a production and operations facility on its 37-acre campus in Bristol, adjacent to the company’s 110,000-square-foot production facility at 51687 C.R. 133, a news release from the Indiana Department of Economic Development shows. The new, 144,600-square-foot building will allow the company to increase manufacturing capacity to meet increased demand from across North America. Barletta expects to break ground on its new facility in July, with plans to be fully operational by January 2021. The expansion is expected to be the first phase of a multi-tiered expansion plan that will allow Barletta to grow in the coming years, the news release states. New office space as well as additional storage capacity are also part of the company’s initial phase.
The company, which employs approximately 200 associates in Indiana, plans to begin hiring for production positions over the next several months.
“Elkhart County is the RV and pontoon boating capital of the world,” said Bill Fenech, president and co-founder of Barletta Boat Co. “Obviously, it made sense to continue growing our business in the heart of the recreational industry. Local and state officials have been extremely supportive of our company and the culture we are building here. This area is home to some of the hardest working, talented, and proudest boat builders in the country. We have been blessed with a team that shares our vision of being the best marine manufacturer in the U.S.”
In 2017, Fenech, who also co-founded Keystone RV in 1996 and Grand Design RV in 2012, founded Barletta.
enFocus, a key resource for talent attraction in the South Bend-Elkhart Region, today (June 22) announced the creation of a new, dedicated industry innovation team to support iNDustry Labs at Notre Dame. The University of Notre Dame, with support from Lilly Endowment Inc., established iNDustry Labs in 2019 to unlock the competitive advantage associated with the region’s concentration of manufacturing in proximity to a global, tier-one research university.
enFocus has built a team of Fellows boasting backgrounds in engineering, industrial design, data analytics and digital operations. They are currently joined by summer interns from notable engineering programs including the University of Notre Dame, University of Michigan, Purdue University and Northwestern University. The Fellows provide support to iNDustryLabs Faculty and staff in their collaborations with businesses in the region as they develop and implement strategic plans for product and process innovation to diversify and grow business operations. Through the process, businesses gain access to technical expertise and innovation-based facilities available through iNDustry Labs.
Since its inception in 2012, enFocus has proven to be a key resource for talent attraction in the region. Through a two-year Fellowship program, recent graduates from a wide range of disciplines are paired with sponsored projects to drive innovation in local organizations. Much of enFocus’ work to-date has focused on serving the public, education and non-profit sectors. The launch of the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Network created an opportunity for enFocus to expand their activities to support innovation-based economic development, through iNDustry Labs at Notre Dame.
Michael Shoemaker, most recently a process engineer with Ford Motor Company, will lead the enFocus team as Program Director of Industry Innovation. Michael holds a bachelors and masters degree in Engineering from the University of Michigan, and joined enFocus in 2018.
“We recognize the difficulty local business leaders often have in finding technical talent that can help identify and implement digital advancements that result in competitive advantages,” said Shoemaker. “enFocus has demonstrated success in attracting the young talent needed to take local organizations to the next level, and we are excited to support iNDustry Labs in this effort.”
“We are thrilled with the caliber of technical talent enFocus brings to iNDustry Labs’ operations,” said John DeSalle, iNDustry Labs Executive Engineer-in-Residence and former President of Hoosier Racing Tire Corp. “Ultimately, our goal is to help build regional resilience with our manufacturers and regional industry to ensure they become or remain global competitors in a technologically advanced economy.”
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 new initiatives were launched to help Indiana businesses restart, adapt and stimulate long-term growth, especially small businesses and manufacturers.
June 1, 2020
Indiana is launching several new economic recovery initiatives designed to bolster critical relief efforts while encouraging long-term planning and investments to stimulate the state’s economy well into the future. Through these initiatives, the state will allocate nearly $44 million to provide support and resources including approximately $37 million in direct funding through grants and investments to small businesses and manufacturers – two key drivers of the Hoosier economy.
“To restart Indiana’s economic engine, it’s critical that we provide Hoosier businesses and entrepreneurs with the support they need to grow and get back on track,” said Governor Eric J. Holcomb. “These initiatives will ensure that two critical drivers of our state’s economy have access to resources and technological tools that allow them to continue competing and leading in the 21st century economy, while further positioning our state for long-term economic growth.”
To safely guide a return to economic activity, the state will deploy federal relief funds under the CARES Act in coordination with Indiana’s Economic Relief and Recovery Team, while targeting initiatives aimed at achieving long-term economic stabilization.
Small Business Restart Fund: Gov. Holcomb approved $30 million in federal funding made available through the CARES Act to small business restart grants, helping accelerate the speed of economic recovery activity by providing working capital to cover certain expenses related to the global pandemic. Indiana small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and $5 million in annual revenue that have experienced a 40% drop in revenue will be eligible to be reimbursed for up to 80% of qualified expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, lease payments for real or personal property, and safety investments, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and infrastructure improvements.
Eligible small businesses that demonstrate a revenue loss of at least 40% will be awarded up to $2,500 for each month while small businesses that demonstrate a revenue loss of at least 80% will be awarded up to $5,000 for each month, with grants issued up to $10,000 per company. Of the $30 million allocated to the fund, at least $5 million will be reserved for certified minority- and women-owned businesses.
Small Business Relief & Planning Resources: The Indiana Small Business Development Center (Indiana SBDC) received nearly $3.7 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through the CARES Act to support increased resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses over the next 18 months. The funding, which will nearly double the organization’s annual federal appropriations, will enable Indiana SBDC to increase no-cost services, such as counseling and training, for businesses that were in operation prior to and that have been impacted by COVID-19. Services will be available through the Indiana SBDC’s 10 regional offices across the state and are expected to focus on financial assistance, e-commerce, business adaptation and innovation, disaster resiliency and planning, and reopening plans.
Manufacturing Support & Long-Term Growth: The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) board of directors approved $10 million to launch the Economic Activity Stabilization and Enhancement (EASE) program aimed at supporting technology and operational advancements in the manufacturing industry, which has long been a key driver of the state’s economy. EASE, which encompasses three complimentary initiatives, is designed to stimulate manufacturing investments that will position Indiana operations, and the sector overall, for future growth and prosperity by prioritizing startup investment and resources, technology modernization and development, and training assistance.
The three EASE initiatives include:
The new Smart & Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Focus Fund, which will make seed and early-stage investments and provide entrepreneurship resources to Indiana manufacturing-focused startups through Elevate Ventures, the state’s venture development partner;
Manufacturing Readiness Grants, administered in partnership with Conexus Indiana, will provide matching grants of up to $200,000 to companies committing to modernizing their operations or integrating smart technologies and processes in order to improve capacity, or to companies investing in health care manufacturing technology, providing financial assistance to manufacturers supporting critical COVID-19 response efforts; and
A planned Smart Manufacturing Studio Lab, which will provide lab space and access to state-of-the-art smart manufacturing equipment, enabling businesses to train employees, validate technologies for their business models, and conduct third-party pilot manufacturing.
Of these programs, the SAM Focus Fund will launch immediately while the Manufacturing Readiness Grant applications are expected to be available in July with initial grant recommendations beginning in August. The IEDC will partner with industry stakeholders to develop a project scope for the Smart Manufacturing Studio Lab, mapping out next steps and a plan to source and supply the equipment, working toward a studio launch in early 2021.
Indiana’s manufacturing and small business sectors play critical roles in supporting the state’s economy. With more than 8,500 manufacturing facilities and the highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., manufacturing accounts for 27.8% of Indiana’s total economic output. Additionally, according to the SBA, Indiana is home to approximately 104,335 small businesses that employ fewer than 150 associates, supporting 941,578 workers across the state.
Wednesday, June 3rd 2020, 2:24 PM EDTUpdated: Wednesday, June 3rd 2020, 7:05 PM EDTBy Mary Willkom, Writer/Reporter
(photo courtesy of Lighthouse Autism Center)
ELKHART – Lighthouse Autism Center is expanding its services in Elkhart County. The organization says it plans to open the new applied behavior analysis center in July and expects to create an additional 35 jobs in the area.
Lighthouse says the new location will be its second ABA center in Elkhart and its ninth total facility. The center first opened in Mishawaka in 2012.
“In August of 2019, we opened our first Elkhart center. Since then, we have been overwhelmed by the number of families inquiring about therapy services for their children. Clearly the need for autism therapy services is great in this community, and we feel privileged to be able to help meet that need,” said Gregg Maggioli, co-founder and chief executive officer of Lighthouse Autism Center.
Similar to its current Elkhart location, the new building will have the capacity to serve more than 20 children.
Lighthouse says the newest center will continue proactive health and safety measures, including masks for all employees, extra staff for cleaning and sanitation, limited building capacity, and symptom and temperature checks for children and employees.
Lighthouse is now enrolling children at its newest location, and you can find more information by clicking here.
Ameri-Kart, a Myers Industries Inc. company and a rotational molder and thermoformer, announced plans Friday (June 5) to expand its Elkhart County manufacturing operations, consolidating its Michigan and Indiana operations in Bristol, Ind., and creating up to 210 new jobs by the end of 2022.
“Thanks to manufacturers like Ameri-Kart growing and producing in our state, Indiana continues to build on its reputation as one of top manufacturing states in the nation, with nearly 30% of our state’s economic output coming from the manufacturing industry,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger. “We’re grateful Ameri-Kart chose to continue growing its Indiana operations, and are excited to support their continued success in our state.”
Ameri-Kart, which manufactures a broad range of custom plastic parts within the RV, marine, agricultural, construction, manufacturing and safety industries, will invest approximately $10.1 million to construct and equip a new, state-of-the-art production facility in Bristol on 32 acres at 1667 Commerce Drive near I-80/90 and I-94. The new 234,000-square-foot facility will accommodate the consolidation of Ameri-Kart’s existing operations in Bristol, as well as its operations in Cassopolis, Michigan. Construction is underway, and the company plans to begin relocation in staged phases this fall and be fully moved into the facility by early 2021. The move will support the company’s efforts to increase efficiency of operations and enhance customer service.
“We are excited to be making this investment in our community,” said Kristian Stankiewicz, president of Ameri-Kart. “The larger, modern facility will allow us to continue delivering highly innovative products and quality service to our customers and provide an improved work environment to our employees.”
The company, which currently employs 138 associates in Bristol and 85 in Michigan, plans to begin hiring for positions in professional and production roles in Bristol beginning late September. Interested applicants may apply online.
“The Town of Bristol is both excited and grateful that Ameri-Kart has selected our town to locate their new state-of-the-art production facility,” said Bristol Town Council President Jeff Beachy. “Ameri-Kart has been a great business partner for many years, with their current facility located just outside Bristol town limits, so when they approached us about building their new facility in our North Industrial Park we were more than excited and supportive of their project. We look forward to seeing the new facility as it springs to life from the once vacant property, into a thriving business. We wish Myers Industries, the Ameri-Kart leadership team and their employees much success as they invest in the growth of their business operations, their new facility and also for their investment they are making in the Town of Bristol.”
Founded in 1989, Ameri-Kart manufactures a wide range of molded plastic parts and assemblies that meet customer design specifications and production requirements for a variety of industries. The new facility will accommodate state-of-the-art rotomold and thermoform manufacturing technologies, an improved lean equipment layout and automated workflows. Coupled with ergonomic and biophilic design throughout the building, these improvements will drive increased efficiency, and further enhance employee productivity and job satisfaction.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following “Open Letter to the Business Community of Elkhart County,” signed by the mayors of Elkhart, Goshen and Nappanee, Ind., as well as the Elkhart County Commissioners and economic development and chamber of commerce officials, was distributed this week (June 1) to express the concerns of the community leaders regarding the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout those Northern Indiana communities where, coincidentally, North America’s RV industry is centered. The letter follows published reports regarding a hike in Elkhart County’s COVID-19 infection rates. We’re posting the letter verbatim here on RVBUSINESS.com.
We are reaching out to you to share our concerns about the spread of COVID-19, particularly as it relates to Elkhart County.
In March and April, our community did a great job working together to slow the spread of the virus and assure that we could medically test and treat those who were infected. We expected a peak in mid-May in northern Indiana, but numbers in the past week in particular are troubling. As of June 1, Elkhart County had a total of 1,322 positive cases from 9,849 tested and 28 people have died from the coronavirus.
The State of Indiana is decreasing the percentage of new positive cases in comparison to the number of tests given. The temporary shut down and actions of people as we open up seem to have been successful statewide. Our county tells a different story. In the past week, Elkhart County received national attention when it became the 10th most likely in the entire country to have the next COVID-19 outbreak, based on data collected by the New York Times. This has since changed and we are no longer on the high end of the list, but only because other counties are doing worse.
As of today, we expect to see our total number of cases double every 12.5 days. Our county is testing a significant number more people than we have in the past which means our total number of positive cases will rise. The problem is our percentage of positive tests to total tests given is rising dramatically. This shows that we have a spread issue. The first couple of months we saw a daily positive test percentage of 4% to 9%. Since the economy has reopened, we have seen that jump to 16%, and the last week the percentages of positive tests rose to 20% to 25%. By comparison, Indiana dropped from 18% to the current 7.5% daily positives.
If you look at Indiana’s data of positive cases by age, it is clear people ages 20 to 60 are the ones spreading the virus. This is us and this is our work force. As we have returned to work, the number of people who are getting sick is growing. Since we appeared on the national list, state and federal agencies have started looking closer at Elkhart County and we are at risk of them taking action to shut us down again. The CDC, OSHA, State Board of Health, or the Governor could order Elkhart County to again stay home entirely if we don’t act now to slow the spread again. The best solution for all of us is to do this voluntarily rather than be told to shut down. We cannot afford to shut down again if we can avoid it, but we can afford to take the time to reinforce our efforts and precautions. Companies with outbreaks have suffered work shut-downs, morale issues and community embarrassment. We need to not allow anyone outside Elkhart County to control our ability to manage this pandemic. We will work with each and every one of you to support your efforts. We just ask that you stand beside us as well. We are all in this together.
We want to remind everyone that social distancing, masks and handwashing are just as essential now as they have been over the past two months. If we become complacent and relax our personal or workplace protocols and behaviors, we could see the disease spread in even more deadly ways.
These are not fun times, but we can take steps to slow the spread of the virus and keep our community safer. We need to work together, possibly slow output, and both implement and enforce safe practices. We are now seeing record volumes of COVID-19 patients in our Urgent Care facilities and our hospitals have more patients than ever due to COVID-19.
We are a team here in Elkhart County. We all rely on the other. In the time of a pandemic, the actions of a few can have a large effect on all of us, our health and our economy.
Thank you to all of you who are already taking the appropriate steps and thank you to those who will step up again as you have in the past.