A northeast Indiana town with a population under 2,700 has received a big economic boost. Up to 425 new recreational vehicle industry jobs are coming to LaGrange as part of a planned $6.7 million investment by Elkhart-based Forest River Manufacturing LLC. Town Manager Mark Eagleson says it will be the largest economic growth in at least 20 years.
He tells Inside INdiana Business the announcement means more than jobs. In addition to local businesses benefiting from the increased traffic of out-of-town employees heading to work, Eagleson believes the expansion offers an opportunity to showcase the community as "the gem that it is." He says "I think the other potential is some of the people that supply (Forest River) with parts and supplies — as this continues to grow, as we hope it would — you know, they may look at locating here to cut down on deliveries and some of that, as well, so I think it could spur additional growth on the industry end."
Dutch Housing, which employed hundreds of manufactured housing workers before pulling out eight years ago, was the last major tenant of the buildings.
At 3.2 percent in the most recent county-by-county unemployment data, LaGrange County is tied for eighth-lowest unemployment rate of 92 Indiana counties and Eagleson says it is a "huge win for the town," bringing jobs that are expected to pay a higher-than-average county wage.
Forest River was founded in the mid-1990s and is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. It has operations in Goshen, Millersburg, Topeka, Middlebury and Wakarusa.