Elkhart Aims to Diversify Into Other Industries

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There is no better time than now, while Elkhart’s economy is strong, to increase the city’s economic resilience and develop a clear plan for growth, Mayor Tim Neese said.

This story by Rasmus S. Jorgensen originally appeared in The Elkhart Truth.

A plan from the Mayor’s Office recently stated that the city will examine existing base industries and workforce requirements to identify two or three industries that the city “would specifically target for future growth.”

Those industries should have different market-demand factors than the RV industry, according to a release about the plan, though they should also offer positions that can be filled by the existing workforce.

According to the release, industries that would fit this description include supply-chain management, data analytics, advanced manufacturing, engineered solutions and health care. It is the mayor’s goal that the right industries will have been identified by spring.

The mayor referred to an article written by Michael Tackett and published by The New York Times on Sept. 11, called “As Elkhart, Ind., Goes, So Goes the Nation, and Elkhart is Nervous.” The article pointed out Elkhart’s reliance on RV manufacturing and that industry’s tendency to be strongly affected by the ups and downs of the economy.

With the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, there is extra reason to be concerned, the article stated.

The release from the mayor said “confidence in the economy is still strong, but for many who have lived in Elkhart through various economic cycles, the sentiments expressed in the New York Times article were not surprising. Throughout the city’s history, the economy has been primarily driven by one industry at a time – pharmaceuticals, band instruments, manufactured homes and now RVs. This over-reliance on a singular base industry has made Elkhart more vulnerable to fluctuations in the economy.”

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