Elkhart ready to roll beyond RVs

A water tower rises above the trees in Elkhart, Indiana.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: We mentioned earlier the jobs report that's expected this morning. Nearly one in five people in Elkhart, Ind. -- home to a number of recreational vehicle plants -- is without a job. Lately, RV sales have ticked up. Is Elkhart seeing the effects? Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.


Ashley Milne-Tyte: Heather Templeton works for an Elkhart company that makes RV furniture. It's laid off more than half its workers in the past two years as demand for RVs plummeted.

Heather Templeton: You know it has touched every single person in this county and outside this county.

For a year, business had been worse than she'd ever known.

Templeton: There's orders just trickling in. But now we're starting to see an increase of companies, our customers placing more than one order a week.

That's actually a big improvement. Templeton says there were weeks when no orders came in at all. The uptick isn't significant enough to start hiring though.

Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore says other local RV businesses are putting people back to work. But he says the town realizes it can no longer rely on one industry to keep its economy healthy. That's because past downturns were shorter, he says, and the area figured demand for RVs would always pick up again.

Dick Moore: So you know, when you don't have a need, you don't make any changes, and we never saw the need. But I think we've all learned a lesson here in Elkhart and Elkhart County that we can't think that way any longer.

He says he's been sending out letters himself asking businesses from technology firms to green energy companies to come and invest in Elkhart.

I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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