Tariffs could impact Elkhart County RV industry

WSBT 22 photo

RV manufacturers could soon see higher costs for raw materials, and this could impact economic growth in Elkhart County.

The RV industry is a huge part of Elkhart County. Now each business will have to determine how best to react to President Trump signing tariffs on aluminum and steel into law on Thursday.

The RV industry is growing. Industry experts say it's on pace to set shipment records for the second year in a row. Meaning Elkhart is growing too.

"Our economy is booming and we'd kind of like to keep it that way," said Levon Johnson, Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce president.

But businesses have only a few weeks to adapt before they could be spending more money on raw materials.

The tariffs signed into law Thursday will increase the prices of aluminum and steel from any country other than Canada or Mexico.

That can have a ripple effect on the entire industry.

"The tariffs themselves could raise the costs of production, which would then potentially raise the cost of the RVs, which could then affect the demand -- you know, whether customers are able to buy them or not," said Kevin Broom, RV Industry Association director of media relations.

The RV industry association says anything that could lower the demand for RVs could slow the industry's growth.

The president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce says the impact will vary.

"Every business has to have their own response. Again, if you're just looking at basic economics, then yeah the cost of an RV or a steel building is going to go up because it's costing more now to produce those goods."

But the higher costs could impact other areas as well.

Johnson says some companies are holding off on expanding while they wait and see how these tariffs will unfold. But he trusts business leaders will adjust well to the changes.

"Right now let's wait and see. I don't feel like there's any need to panic. The work is there, there's still demand for the RVs."

Earlier this week representative Jackie Walorski wrote a letter to President Trump about these tariffs.

In it she said one manufacturer had already canceled plans to build a plant in her district because of these tariffs.

They will take effect in 15 days.

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