Kylie Veleta | December 17, 2017
Elkhart County’s RV industry is on the upside of its tale of redemption; after the recession brought the region “down to our knees”—as one company executive described it—the area is now posting record RV sales numbers and announcing expansions at a furious rate. But the growth isn’t without hiccups. A low unemployment rate in Elkhart County, coupled with high demand for more workers, is creating a labor shortage; reports estimate the gap from 8,000 to 20,000 workers. A Notre Dame program wants to help the region be fully staffed for its revival and will use the science of data to analyze the problem and uncover solutions.
Economic leaders in the RV Capital of the World say nearly 50 percent of jobs in Elkhart County are in the manufacturing sector, and of those, some 30,000 are specific to the RV industry. And the number is growing; 2017 saw a barrage of expansions at RV manufacturers, with many announcements touting hundreds of new jobs. Lippert Components, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jason Lippert told Inside Indiana Business in August that the company had 500 job openings.
With the county unemployment rate hovering around 2 percent, Grand Design RV President and Chief Executive Officer Don Clark says “labor is tight” for RV manufacturers and suppliers, and that the region needs more people in its workforce.
South Bend-based enFocus, Inc. is in the early stages of a nine-month project to analyze Elkhart County’s labor demand and labor supply to help the region find answers. The nonprofit fellowship program, powered mostly by Notre Dame graduate and master’s students, unleashes the power of data, technology and consulting services to help companies and nonprofits overcome challenges.