RV leaders optimistic for future of the industry
SOUTH BEND —
The annual RV Show is underway at South Bend's Century Center.
Last year, the number of RV's shipped was the highest it's been in the past 40 years.
The RV industry brings in $9.5 billion to Indiana. Experts says 2018 will surpass the half a million RV's that came out of Elkhart County last year.
Nine straight years of growth, less than a decade since the Great Recession which left the Elkhart community hurting.
"You know back at the height of the recession, Elkhart County had the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Today, Elkhart County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state of Indiana. So obviously that means a lot to the local community,” said Show Director, Matt Rose.
80-percent of the countries RV's are manufactured in Elkhart County. Many people still remember the economic crash, but have seen the drastic change over the past decade.
"It was huge then and then when it kinda all went down the road or downhill. To see how a community pulls together with employment and all the different things, I mean it's amazing,” said Emily Stahley.
Rose says lower interest rates and growing consumer confidence has helped. But dealers say the influx of fresh faces has been the key.
"Used to be that our average customer was probably 60-years-old. You know now our average customer is probably 30-years-old. You know they're not waiting for retirement. They're wanting to go now and take their families, spend time in the outdoors. You know enjoy the time they have now,” said Dave Titus.
Rose says 50-percent of those attending already own an RV and are looking for their next model.
He also says he's seeing more interest from first time buyers.
“It's probably not in the cards for us right now, but we definitely like to see all the different things that that they have out there. Our kids really like it so eventually camping will be in the future,” said Stahley.
As optimism remains high, the RV lifestyle remains close to the people of Elkhart.
The RV show runs from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for adults are $8, children 15 and under get in for free.