MIDDLEBURY — Gov. Mike Pence and Grand Design RV detailed plans to add as many as 500 new jobs, including 120 in the near future, to the new recreational vehicle manufacturer north of Middlebury.
The announcement came Thursday afternoon, April 18, at the RV company’s campus. Grand Design employees, company leaders and their families formed an audience inside the first of Grand Design’s factories.
“Today is a great example of how Hoosier entrepreneurs and Hoosier workers are coming together to bring Indiana back,” Pence said. “This is a great day for Elkhart County.”
Don Clark, president and co-owner of Grand Design, said, “we wanted to create a company that people wanted to build their career with,” and he said they wanted to build it here. “Our people have a work ethic like no place else on earth,” Clark said.
Pence said the growth of Grand Design is a credit to entrepreneurs and ingenuity, but also shows “the skill, character and the work ethic of the people of Indiana.”
It’s Pence’s first trip to Elkhart County since he took office, and the announcement highlights the strong growth of the RV industry which employs roughly a quarter of Elkhart County’s workforce between manufacturers and suppliers.
March numbers for the industry aren’t yet available, but in the first two months of this year, RV shipments were up 16.6 percent over the same period of 2012, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. February was the industry’s best February in five years, according to the RVIA.
Grand Design started production this year and had already announced general plans to ramp up production through this year and grow into the facilities the company purchased at C.R. 2 and S.R. 13/U.S. 131, just south of the state line.
Clark said the company has about 115 employees now and will roughly double that as its second production line ramps up, producing a “little sister” to its existing Solitude. Officials plan to have a total of roughly 500 employees in a few years, Clark said.
Ron Fenech, one of the other owners, said at Grand Design “things are going great.” Customers like the product, they have 87 dealers already with plans to have 120 to 130 by the end of the year, and “we’ve attracted phenomenal workers. We’ve ramped up more smoothly than any other plant I’ve ever been involved with” in his decades in the industry.
David Hess, a county council member who shared the podium with Clark and Pence, said Thursday reminded him of the industry upswing in 1985 and 1986. “Things have turned the corner and things are improving in Elkhart County,” he said.
The state offered Grand Design up to $2.85 million in tax credits and $200,000 in training grants if it adds the total number of jobs.
Pence said Grand Design’s announcement is major good news. “It’s a very significant thing, more than $11 million in investment,” Pence said. “It’s great to see the RV industry coming back in the Hoosier State after seeing some very difficult times. It’s like I said, I-N-D equals R-V. The truth is 83 percent of domestic RVs manufactured in this country are made in Indiana.”
While policy makers can help pave the way for economic growth, “at the end of the day it’s when you see individuals that are willing to risk capital, and really put their faith in the people of Indiana, “ Pence said.