RV maker Forest River plans expansion

December 21st, 2016

By Patrick Redmond | KPC News - The News Sun

LaGrange -

Recreational-vehicle manufacturing giant Forest River Inc. is bringing an estimated 250 jobs here by the end of next year as the Elkhart-based company made public its purchase of a 100-acre-plus industrial site on the town’s north side.

Monday night, Forest River requested that the LaGrange Town Council declare the former Dutch Housing complex on S.R. 9 an economic revitalization area. That designation would allow Forest River to reap several state and local economic benefits, including a proposed 10-year $1.7 million tax abatement on the property and equipment.

Forest River, which is owned by Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is one of the nation’s largest RV manufacturers, producing motor homes, travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers and destination trailers.

The company has not said what it will produce in LaGrange, but it has indicated it will move a current production line from its Topeka plant to LaGrange, said Ryne Krock, president and CEO of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp., which has been working with Forest River representatives.

The former Dutch Housing complex previously produced manufactured housing and employed more than 200 people in the 1990s, but it has sat mostly idle since 2008 when the company stopped production, said Town Manager Mark Eagleson.

LaGrange will hold a special public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, at Town Hall to designate the former Dutch Housing plant an economic revitalization zone. The town also is expected to approve Forest River’s request for the tax abatement at that time.

In the statement of benefits paperwork Forest River filed with the state of Indiana, the company estimates the LaGrange payroll could exceed $13 million in 2017.

Eagleson said Forest River formally closed on the property in early December. Contractors have been working with the town to re-establish water service to all of the complex’s buildings.

He said Forest River has indicated it will have a small workforce in place in LaGrange by the end of January, and the RV maker expects to expand that workforce to more than 200 by year-end.

Plans call for the plant to keep expanding to more than 450 employees by the end of 2018, Krock said.

Forest River’s Topeka plant will see a new product line move in to replace the line that moves to LaGrange, he said.