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Recent Expansions Highlight Need for Diversity

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Recent expansions into Michigan by Thor and Forest River highlight a need for more diversity in the Elkhart workforce, according to the county’s Economic Development Corp. President/CEO Dorinda Heiden-Guss.

Heiden-Guss stressed the importance of the RV industry on the county while stressing the need for a more diverse Elkhart workforce.

“We’re blessed that 83 percent of the RV market is made in Elkhart County and it’s booming at this time,” she told the Elkhart Truth. “ The region and neighboring states are benefitting from their success. But this reinforces the importance of a new focus to development and maintaining the economic health of our local market. By diversifying the types of businesses that are attracted to the local economy, we help offset the burden that existing companies are experiencing with our limited labor pool.”

Heiden-Guss noted that she’d recently declined to help set up an incentives package for an RV company hoping to do business in the area.

“I said ‘We’re not actively pursuing these types of businesses. We’re looking for different types of companies that need different skill sets.’ ”

According to the report by the Elkhart Truth, the Development Corporation has described this attitude as a “paradigm shift,” and now the question is: Which should come first, a skilled labor force that will attract companies employing technology and high-tech methods or vice versa?

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