Elkhart Mayor Looks to 'Launch' Economy

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Tim Neese is a former Indiana state representative and is in his first year as Elkhart mayor. Tim Neese is a former Indiana state representative and is in his first year as Elkhart mayor.

While the RV industry will continue to be a major driver of the area’s economy, Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese says diversity needs to be "job one," and a new coworking space will be a step in that direction. In an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, Neese said Launch Elkhart, a partnership with the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, will be unveiled in the coming weeks. "We want people who are starting businesses to feel welcome," said Neese, a first term Republican mayor.

The Elkhart County economy has been on a roller coaster ride and in the national jobs discussion since 2008, when President Barrack Obama paid a visit. At the time, Elkhart County had the highest unemployment rate in the nation at nearly 20 percent.

Much of the dire economic picture was tied to the region’s historic ties to the cyclical RV sector. It's estimated that about 85 percent of the nation's RV's come from Elkhart County. 

With the sector on an upswing, the area has been in a definite hiring mode. President Obama returned to Elkhart in early June, touting the region's economic recovery and an unemployment rate hovering around 4 percent.

Neese says the recovery has also led to a tightening labor market that has companies scrambling to find talent.

"We have right now at least ten companies within Elkhart County that are in need of employees," said Neese. "It's very common to drive from point A to point B and see signs that say need workers, we are hiring."

Elkhart County, however, is not immune to tough economic news.

In June, just days after the President's visit, CTS Corp. announced plans to phase out its long time manufacturing operation in Elkhart, a move expected to affect more than 300 workers.

Also in June, Evergreen RV confirmed plans to close two facilities in Middlebury, a decision expected to impact about 270 workers.

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