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Mark Richgruber (left), of Coulee Region RV Center in West Salem, Wisc., and Jeff Terhune, production manager of the Ascend line for Middlebury’s EverGreen RV, look over EverGreen units during the open house Tuesday Sept. 17. EverGreen is one of many Elkhart County RV companies that continues to grow rapidly, helping put the county in the top three for employment growth between 2012 and 2013. (Truth photo by J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)
Elkhart County still in nation’s top three for job growth

Posted on Sept. 26, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Sept. 26, 2013 at 12:28 p.m.

GOSHEN — For the second time in a week, Elkhart County made No. 3 on a national list from the U.S. Department of Commerce, this time for job growth.

The report released Thursday morning, Sept. 26, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows Elkhart County had 6 percent job growth between March 2012 and March 2013.

That placed us only behind Fort Bend and Midland counties in Texas, and well above the national average increase of 1.6 percent.

Earlier this week, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis announced Elkhart County had the third-fastest-growing gross domestic product between 2011 and 2012.

Midland, Texas, county seat of Midland County, ranked higher than Elkhart in the GDP list, too, along with Odessa, which is also partly in Midland County.

While Elkhart County ranked No. 1 in job growth last year, “It’s still very impressive,” said Kyle Hannon, president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.

The increases in gross domestic product and jobs aren’t only due to the RV industry, but RV manufacturers and the suppliers which provide products to that industry are a big part of the jobs growth, Hannon said. ”We do have a lot of other industries in the area. RVs and supplying companies are the big employers, so it’s definitely a sign that the major employers are doing well, and people are seeing that.”

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association estimates that 83 percent of all RVs built in North America are built in and around Elkhart County, and the RV industry has seen double-digit growth for the last few years, and that growth is expected to continue after RV dealers placed hundreds of millions of dollars in orders during Elkhart RV Open House Week Sept. 16-19.

It’s a continuation of positive signs coming out of the recession, which hit Elkhart County hardest in the nation in terms of unemployment.

“It does go back to when the times were tough and we had the unfortunate position of leading the nation in jobs losses,” Hannon said. “Everyone knew that wasn’t going to last and that we’d lead the nation in job growth, and those predictions have been coming true the last three years.”

It’s a good reminder for government leaders that “this is the area where job growth is happening,” Hannon said.