Forest River, a full-line manufacturer of recreational and commercial vehicles, announced plans Tuesday to expand its operations to LaGrange, creating up to 425 new jobs by 2019 and marking another milestone for Indiana’s RV industry, which produces 80 percent of the world’s RVs.
“If you see an RV on the road, chances are it was built in Indiana,” said Governor Mike Pence. “As a national leader in manufacturing, Hoosiers’ hard work and innovations have built Indiana into the world’s choice location for designing and building RVs. Our state’s skilled workforce, excellent business climate and strong quality of life promise to continue to attract and grow top-tier companies like Forest River in the years ahead here in a state that works for business.”
The Elkhart-based company, which also operates Indiana facilities in Goshen, Millersburg, Topeka, Middlebury and Wakarusa, will invest $6.7 million to establish operations in LaGrange, purchasing four existing facilities which cover 450,000 square feet over 100 acres. Renovations are currently underway on three of the facilities, which have sat vacant for more than eight years, and the company plans to evaluate options for the fourth facility late this year. Operations are slated to begin in one facility by mid-January and two more by May 2017, allowing the company to expand production of its Cherokee line of fifth wheel and travel trailers, which is currently backlogged. With this growth, Forest River’s footprint is expanding to cover 12 million square feet across its facilities nationwide.
Today’s announcement follows Forest River’s continued growth across northern Indiana. In 2014, the company made plans to expand its operations in Elkhart County, opening a new production facility in Bristol and equipping three facilities in Goshen. As part of this growth, the company planned to create a total of 185 new jobs. The company has since exceeded that goal, and currently employs 11,000 Hoosiers. Forest River plans to begin hiring this month in LaGrange for positions across the company, which on average are expected to offer wages above the LaGrange County average wage. Interested applicants may apply online at www.forestriverinc.com.
“As a company that manufactures RVs across the nation, we considered many options before we decided to expand production into LaGrange,” said Mike Stump, director of public relations at Forest River. “As home to the RV Capital of the World, Indiana offers the business climate and skilled labor force we need to to quickly increase production of the Cherokee line to meet rising demand. At Forest River, we’re proud to be headquartered in the home of RVs and even more excited for our future of growth here in Indiana.”
Forest River’s growth comes as demand for RVs continues to climb. As home to the RV Capital of the World, Indiana helped the industry make 397,721 RV shipments in 2016 through the end of November, which is an increase of nearly 15 percent over the same time period in 2015. RV shipments hit their highest level since 1977 in 2016, with shipments projected to rise to top 438,000 in 2017.
Founded in 1996, Forest River is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and one of the largest RV manufactures in the United States. Producing travel trailers, fifth wheels, pop-up tent campers, park model trailers, destination trailers, cargo trailers, commercial vehicles, buses, pontoons, restroom trailers and mobile offices, the company is the largest shuttle bus manufacturer and second largest RV manufacturer in the nation as measured by production. Forest River has grown to occupy 37 percent market share of the RV industry’s total sales.
“Forest River coming to LaGrange is a huge win for the town,” said Mark Eagleson, LaGrange town manager. “It will bring quality high-paying jobs, increased business for our retailers and hopefully stimulate housing growth. It is clearly the largest economic growth the town has seen in at least 20 years.”
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered Forest River Manufacturing LLC up to $2,500,000 in conditional tax credits based on the company’s job creations plans. These incentives are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. The town of LaGrange will consider additional incentives at the request of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation.