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RV company expansion comes amid industry rebound

MIDDLEBURY, Ind. — A northern Indiana RV manufacturer’s plans for a nearly $7 million expansion comes as the industry continues its rebound from being devastated by the Great Recession.

The owners of Middlebury-based Grand Design RV say they expect to add some 330 jobs in the next few years with new manufacturing facilities on nearly 50 acres next to its current campus. The manufacturer of fifth-wheel trailers now has about 550 workers.

Co-owner Don Clark said he and his partners were confident of success when they started the company in early 2013.

“Did we think it was going to happen this quickly?” he told the South Bend Tribune. “No. None of us thought it would happen as fast as it has.”

Several other Elkhart County RV companies have announced expansions in recent months. Elkhart-based Thor Industries has said it would add workers at plants in Elkhart and Goshen and in Shipshewana, which is in neighboring LaGrange County.

Elkhart County produces more than three-quarters of the country’s RVs and saw its unemployment rate reach nearly 19 percent in 2009 amid factory layoffs during the recession. The county just east of South Bend had a 5.3 percent jobless rate for November.

Overall recreational vehicle shipments from manufacturers to dealers — a key measure of consumer demand — are expected to increase by nearly 4 percent to 361,400 units in 2015, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association said this month. Shipments totaled 353,400 units in 2007, the last year before sales tanked along with the economy.

A Reflections fifth-wheel RV | Grand Design RV

Grand Design, which has had more than $200 million in sales this year, plans to add production lines during 2015. Clark said the company’s $6.9 million project includes more than $500,000 for a new sewage system and about $1 million for road enhancements.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. said it is providing the company up to $2.95 million in tax credits, $200,000 in training grants and $250,000 in infrastructure assistance.

The new facilities will eventually let Grand Design keep pace with orders from dealers, Clark said.

“We certainly did not buy (the additional property) to farm it,” he said.