Support Marketplace

As RV industry tanks, so does Elkhart

Old buildings line Main Street in Elkhart, Indiana.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: Truth be told the president won't actually be in Elkhart, Ind. tomorrow. He'll be about a dozen miles away in a town called Wakarusa. Still, it's close enough to be affected by the fallout from the RV industry up in Elkhart. To get a feel for what the economy has been doing to North Indiana these past few years, we've called up Mac McNally. He runs the Wakarusa Dime Store right there in town. Mr. McNally, good to have you with us.

MAC MCNALLY: Good to be here.

Ryssdal: Do me a favor and give me some idea of what the economy is like there in Elkhart and Wakarusa.

MCNALLY: Well, it's been down. We're in the middle of the RV and travel trailer industry. That's what supports Elkhart Country, or has in the past. And of course, it's taken a really bad hit. I think our unemployment right now is probably about 17 to 18 percent.

Ryssdal: Do you have friends or family who have been hit by this economy, who have been working in RVs?

MCNALLY: I've got a couple of friends who have pretty much lost their businesses; they built things to supply to the RV industry. And that's pretty tragic to see. Although in the last couple of weeks there's been some orders for more things that are built around...Still, it's not great. But I think we're seeing things starting to come around. We bottomed off, and I think there's kind of light at the end of the tunnel right now.

Ryssdal: What does it mean to you, Mr. McNally, that the president keeps on coming by to make speeches and visit with Elkhart.

MCNALLY: Well, he came out when things really got bad, and I think he made commitments to this area. And I think he wants to uphold those commitments. From what I understand today there's going to be an announcement of a release of some stimulus money that will aid in doing some work on trucks and vehicles in this area, making them hybrids and larger pieces of equipment. So I think that's going to be a great help. And I think it's also a psychological thing. Every time he comes to the area, people get a little more focused, they have a little hope, they know that someone is still thinking about them, and trying to do the right thing for them.

Ryssdal: You, though, are actually doing pretty well. Tell me how the candy store business is going.

MCNALLY: Well, the candy store business is excellent. Fortunately, in a bad economy candy seems to do pretty well. We have about 350 different kinds of candy in our little store. And we also sell the world's largest jelly beans, and we do about 55 tons of those every year. It's a lot of fun. Wakarusa is a great little town. The people that live here are just fine people. And so I think we're kinda lucky to have a little shop like this.

Ryssdal: Has the president ever come by your store?

MCNALLY: No, but we got a call from somebody. And I don't know if there's anything to it or not, but they said that he likes to make stops along the way, and there would be a possibility that he might come in.

Ryssdal: Now would you make him pay or would you give him freebies?

MCNALLY: Oh, I think I would have to give him freebies.

Ryssdal: Mac McNally owns the Wakarusa Dimestore, in Wakarusa, Ind. Not far from Elkhart. Mr. McNally, thanks very much for your time.

MCNALLY: Thank you very much, Kai. Always a pleasure, and I just love to listen to you.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...