Not long ago, RV businesses in Elkhart, Indiana were the sad poster children for the great recession. But today the business climate is totally different in the RV capital of the world. The RV industry is back. If you’re looking for work, you can probably get a job in Elkhart building RVs for good pay.
Ten years ago, life was hard in Elkhart. RV manufacturers shut down almost every week and those who survived were subsisting on skeleton crews. The Indiana community’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to an astonishing 20 percent figure. Suddenly Elkhart owned a dubious distinction: it had the highest percentage of unemployed people anywhere in the nation. Many locals lost everything they owned and moved away. Today those people might want not recognize the town they fled.
“The recreation vehicle (RV) industry’s shipments will reach 472,200 units in 2017, the highest annual total since the data has been collected,” reports the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) in a press release. According to RVIA president Frank Hugelmeyer, this number represents a 9.6% increase from the number shipped last calendar year. He says 2018 figures will rise even higher.
“Our industry is in an era of unprecedented growth,” said Hugelmeyer. “We are poised to record an eighth consecutive year of shipment gains, mainly due to product innovations that appeal to retiring baby-boomers as well as younger buyers. The recession is in the rearview mirror. This is a new era for the RV industry.”
Finding housing for those workers is the new problem.
It’s a new era and today the Elkhart revival makes headlines for good reason. The unemployment rate is less than two percent, which is lower than the national average. Business is so good that local media says RV manufacturers are experiencing a skilled worker shortage. Local economic development experts say that just about anyone who possesses the two most in-demand skills – welding knowledge and computerized machining skills – can write their own ticket in Elkhart building RVs. Industry leaders like Jayco and Thor Industries must fill about 25,000 jobs over the next two years. Experts say that figure represents about half the population of Elkhart itself. The burning need for workers sounds great, but right now, it’s not.
Local real estate agents report that even if Elkhart RV industry employers can attract those skilled workers to the area, once they arrive they will won’t have a place to live. “You have more time to pick out a dress at a store then you do to buy a house, because it has to happen quickly. It’s really difficult if you’re a buyer right now,” said agent Pam Schultz to the local ABC Network affiliate.
Elkhart’s local economic development experts report they are currently holding regular meetings to develop housing solutions for all those workers needed to keep up with RV industry demand. Local media reports that at this point in time Elkhart still lacks solid ideas to address the housing crunch.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
the baby boomers have been hanging onto their old MH’s but they are all old style units not up to date with slides, walk around queens, hydraulic lifts, better tires, shocks, AC, Fantastic Fans, etc. one of the items I have noticed in middle year units only one fan hole in MH and usually up front not in the rear because if 2 then use fans to cool unit at night. If the builders want to make things last then they will have to make the spread out farther apart for all buyers not all this year as one has to carry the price for quite a few years to get their dollar back.
David Albright says
I am sorry. The benefits of a job would be welcome, but I know my frustrations would build rapidly and I would have to leave. My standards and attention to detail are much too high to work in your industry as it is today. I was brought up in a time when the only way to work was to work hard and do a job right and make sure everything I did was of absolutely top quality. Thank you for the offer.
Great comment when we were raising our children, I always said a job worth doing is a job worth doing right. By the quality of my New Thor MH I can see hardly any of their workers got that message. On top of that the warranty work performed by CW I am fixing today, theirs lasted a week mine will be permanent. Very sad.
So true ! We had one and the workmanship was terrible. As it turns out, it was a bit small, so needless to say we bought a larger one, and it wasn’t a Thor ……..very sad !
How could you have a housing problem when you build all those motorHOMES? Duh? Did they run out of land to put them on?
It’s a fact there are a lot of job openings in Indiana. Thor has some, Newmar, has some, all the RV plants need help. They pay well, too.
My new Thor MH definitely wasn’t built by quality help. Hope you find some.
Mary the trasnsexual says
I built my own motorhome. It’s not flashy but it’s solid and will outlast me.
Big jim says
I work for a rv dealer. I can tell the rv industry needs skilled workers.
Article said skilled people can make good pay.
Good pay,? Like $30 per hour + Beni fits ??
Sad thing is many company’s think good pay means $15 per, and 65 hours week most of the time.
Captn John says
Stating they are long for “skilled workers” is worse than a lie. No background or drug tests required! No work ethic or any skills needed either. When the next recession comes, and it will, employees will leave in droves hoping a job cleaning toilets at McDonalds will open anywhere in the country.
Russell Mefford says
The quality of our 2017 Montana Legacy was horrible. We were so disappointed. The workmanship Montana had in years past is gone. I’m sure it has to do with those involved in building, but Keystone should have quality control standards in place before the product leaves the factory.
Emile Wonnenberg says
I bought a 2017 Thor Compass 23 TR .I have had it down to the Hitchhouse in southern Ontario Canada.The rear slideout keeps sliding out while we are driving.I have had it back to the HITCHHOUSE 5 times and no one can fix it.They wired a electicial switch on the back of the motorhome. that when activated cuts the POWER to the slidout switch in the house..They said it was now Fixed .I told them it was not FIXED.I said what do you do if its pouring rain out. They said that was all they could do an and thats where its at.I even sent a LETTER to Thor whith a NO RESPONSE.I know nothing will be done but it does make Me feel good.
Thank you for your time
IT being my first Motorhome doesent give me any fond memories or thoughs of ever Buying another one.
Emile Wonnenberg says
The People at THOR HITCHHOUSE are very friendly,but they do not seem have have the skills to fix their motorhomes or where to find the information.Now I will have to live with it.seeing as how the Warrenty is running out.