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RV company plans to expand, add employees

A large recreational vehicle company hopes to expand and add jobs in Elkhart County during the next several years.
Posted on July 14, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 14, 2012 at 10:48 a.m.

GOSHEN — One of Elkhart County’s largest employers is poised to add more than 445 new full-time jobs if the company gets local and state support.

Recreational vehicle maker Forest River Inc. is seeking a pair of tax breaks from the county to expand in Middlebury and Millersburg.

“As we all know, the recreational vehicle industry is rapidly contracting in the marketplace, and through that contraction, there’s good news and bad news in everything,” said Dave Ogle, director of business retention and expansion for the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County. “What used to be 30 or 40 manufacturers is now three, four or five manufacturers. I think we have a great opportunity to continue to protect that business cluster and the supplier chains that go along with that.”

Forest River plans to add 120 employees to its Millersburg location on S.R. 13. Annual salaries are expected to total up to $5.5 million. Redevelopment or rehabilitation of the property is estimated at $2 million, and new manufacturing equipment is valued at $150,000, according to the company. The company has asked for deductions spanning eight years for its property improvements and equipment.

Forty new positions with annual salaries totaling $1.8 million are expected to be added at the Forest River’s Middlebury facility on Harter Drive in the Toll Road Industrial Park. There, the company’s new equipment will be valued at $1.25 million. The company has proposed a five-year deduction.

The two expansion projects in Millersburg and Middlebury are part of a larger plan to bring hundreds of jobs to Elkhart County. Forest River will meet with the Goshen City Council on Tuesday to pitch a similar proposal for a tax abatement. If all goes according to plan, the RV company’s expansion could represent a multi-million dollar boost in capital investment and more than 445 jobs, Ogle said.

Company spokesman Mike Stump said the tax breaks will allow Forest River to remain competitive in the RV industry. He noted that the company must gain local support to qualify for state assistance, which could add up to between $6 million and $10 million.

The Elkhart County Council will have a public hearing at 8 a.m. Aug. 11 before taking a final vote on the two tax breaks. The meeting will be at the Elkhart County Administration Building, 117 N. Second St., Room 104.

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