Another RV maker is hiring in Elkhart County • Keystone, of Elkhart County, ready to boost production.
Another Elkhart County company is revving up production to keep pace with rising demand for recreational vehicles.
Keystone RV will move into a vacant factory in the Goshen industrial park where the company has its headquarters and hire 100 people by early January to increase production of the company’s Montana brand, said Bob Martin, the company’s executive vice president.
Keystone’s announcement Wednesday was the latest in a streak of good news for the RV industry, which has been hammered during the recession.
Elkhart-based Heartland RV announced last week that it would hire 400 new workers by the first part of the year. That company also makes towable RVs, and is among several that have made expansion announcements in recent months.
After layoffs in the industry helped Elkhart County’s jobless rate balloon to nearly 19 percent in March, several area RV companies have reported plans to hire hundreds of workers.In a separate announcement in August, Keystone reported it planned to hire 200 people and open a new facility this fall.
Martin said the company ended up hiring more than 300 people.
“There were several manufacturers that went out of business last year,” Martin said. “The strong companies are definitely getting some of the benefits of that.”
Keystone, a subsidiary of Ohio-based Thor Industries, is the nation’s largest maker of travel trailers and fifth wheels. Montana, a high-end fifth wheel that sells for $55,000 to $70,000, is the company’s flagship brand. Nationwide, RV shipments in October increased year over year for the third-straight month, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association reported Wednesday.
The association’s report suggests Keystone is in the right segment of the market. Shipments of towable RVs were up 27 percent from October 2008, while motor home shipments were down 6 percent.The numbers are a good sign, Martin said, considering fall is usually the slowest time of year for the industry.
Still, RV shipments are down 39 percent this year compared with the first 10 months of 2008, according to the association.
And thousands in Elkhart are still searching for jobs.
About 3,000 people applied for the 300 jobs Keystone filled earlier this fall, Martin said.
“There are many people without jobs, and we’re just glad our company is doing well enough that we can hire people and help out the community,” Martin said.The latest round of hires at Keystone will bring the company’s total employment in Goshen and Pendleton, Ore., to about 2,700, Martin said.
Keystone employed about 3,100 people a couple of years ago, he said.
Staff writer Kevin Allen: email@example.com • (574) 235-6244
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