BizVoice -- January / February 2018

January/February 2018 – BizVoice/Indiana Chamber 49 are excited about growing our business both strategically through acquisition, as well as organically through cross-selling opportunities and geographic expansion.” LCI also supplies components for markets beyond the RV industry, including buses, trailers, trucks, pontoon boats, trains, manufactured homes and modular housing. The company operates 52 manufacturing and distribution facilities in the U.S., Canada and Italy. For the third quarter of 2017, LCI reported a 35% net sales increase over 2016, from $412 million to $555 million. RV strength The largest RV manufacturing company, Thor Industries also ranks at the top in annual national sales units as of July 2017, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. The company recently reported record sales and net income for the fiscal year that ended July 31, 2017, and the first quarter of its fiscal year 2018 (August 1 through October 31, 2017). FY 2017 year-end sales were up 58.2% to $7.25 billion from $4.58 billion the previous year. Net income also rose by 45%. Finding the workers With the RV market rolling strong, the biggest challenge these top manufacturers may face is the labor market in Elkhart County. “In the current economy, we have added a tremendous number of manufacturing jobs, and that pace of job addition is outpacing the natural population growth,” Dobson explains. “This creates some pressure on the labor force. … (Companies) are competing for talent in the marketplace. That challenge is difficult to address.” In recent earnings releases, both LCI and Thor mention workforce shortages in Elkhart County as a challenge. Cleveland, with Patrick Industries, notes, “Since one of the challenges we face (in Elkhart) is a tight labor market, particularly given low unemployment rates, we have continued to focus on talent engagement and retention initiatives with our team members across all areas of our organization to impact our overall retention performance.” Favorable environment While the labor market in Elkhart County may be difficult for manufacturing, the community helps contribute to each company’s success in part by being “very business-friendly,” according to Dobson, citing political leaders, community leaders and policies. There’s also an informal network, where all of the company leaders know each other and support each other – even if they are also competing, he says. Cleveland backs that up. “There is a great deal of communication and partnership between the manufacturers and suppliers, both in Elkhart and in the neighboring counties, which fosters an environment centered around working together to support each other and drive overall industry growth in the markets we serve.” RESOURCES: Recreation Vehicle Industry Association at | Todd Cleveland, Patrick Industries, at | LCI/Lippert Components at | Thor Industries at | Mark Dobson, Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County, at