MIDDLEBURY — With a major construction project at Jayco nearing completion and perhaps 150 new jobs coming to the firm, things are looking good in the recreational vehicle industry.
That was one of the messages from U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski and a top official at the Middlebury RV maker, which the lawmaker visited Monday, May 13.
“They seem very optimistic and, boy, if they are, I am,” said Walorski, a Republican from the Elkhart area. She was at Jayco in Middlebury for a tour of the firm’s motor home division, one of several planned stops at Elkhart County RV companies, the main economic motor here.
Jim Jacobs, Jayco’s chief operating officer, said things may not be where they were in the sector in 2006 or 2007, before the Great Recession hit, pulling the rug out from under the RV industry. They’ve definitely improved, though, with an upswing in interest in RVs and positive signs from RV dealers and participants at RV trade shows.
“Certainly we’re miles ahead of where we were in 2008, 2009,” said Jacobs, speaking after Walorski’s Jayco stop.
NO SPECIFIC ISSUES
As part of Monday’s tour, Walorski met privately with reps from several companies to hear of any concerns or messages they may have for lawmakers in Washington, D.C. She didn’t report any specific issues.
“Their issue is get this economy rebounding,” Walorski said. “Money in people’s pockets translates into jobs in the RV industry.”
At the same time, the less government involvement, the better. “The one thing that several folks did say is, keeping the government out of their business will be very helpful and, you know, I tend to believe the same thing,” she said.
‘A THUMBS UP’
Jayco is adding 77,000 square feet to one of its Middlebury production facilities as part of a planned expansion and the work should be done by early July. Then the company plans to hire as many as 150 new workers over the next two to three years, according to Jacobs.
Walorski toured the facility where the expansion is occurring, getting a glimpse of some of Jayco’s higher-end RVs, Entegra models.
As she walked with Leon Schwartz, director of operations at Jayco’s motorhome division, she noted that when she sees RVs on the road, she “gives a thumbs up (to the other drivers) because to me, these are jobs,” she said.
As part of her visit, Walorski also stopped Monday at NeXus RV, the KOA Campground in Middlebury and Indiana RV Connection, a Jayco dealer in Middlebury, according to reps from the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council accompanying her. She was also to visit L&W Engineering, a Middlebury RV parts supplier, and Kropf Industries in Goshen, which manufactures vacation homes.