CDC Report on Elkhart County

Elkhart, Indiana is known as the RV Capital of the World. More than 80 percent of global RV production is based throughout the region. Looking at this article, Elkhart County has a problem. A COVID-19 problem:

Emergency Management Director Jen Tobey said Monday that investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to present their findings and recommendations on July 23. The CDC team, which includes four people on-site and two working remotely, was asked by state health officials to examine the high number of COVID-19 cases in Elkhart County.

“What’s significant about the CDC is, this is a group of people that travel around the United States only looking at data for COVID-19. We are the first and the only county, so far, in the State of Indiana that has received this team,” she said. “That speaks loudly to me of the fact that we have a problem.”

Could the findings from the CDC negatively impact RV production in Elkhart County?

Overall the outdoor recreation industry has been facing a significant reduction in sales and revenue, production and distribution delays and employee furloughs and layoffs due to the coronavirus.

Latest findings from a survey conducted by the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable:

According to the latest responses of the 21 participating national outdoor recreation trade associations, representing over 23,000 businesses with nearly 2 million employees, the impact is startling:

  • Of the businesses this survey represents, all are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 79 percent experiencing significant impacts.
  • 88 percent of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce
  • 94 percent of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with about 24 percent seeing a decrease of 50 percent or greater compared to one year ago.
  • 95 percent of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 26 percent seeing a decrease of 50 percent or greater compared to one year ago.

With the industry messaging that 2020 will be the year of the RV and the industry claiming record sales, it wouldn’t take much for production to be further reduced in Elkhart County depending on the nature of the outbreak in that region. Once inventory in the dealership network has been exhausted, there may be an ongoing backlog of orders. Shipments in May were down substantially year over year. The numbers for June will be out in a few weeks and perhaps production output improved.

Factory tours show a manufacturing process for the RV industry that relies heavily on human beings. There is little, if any, use of robotics. The working conditions are definitely crowded on the production lines and imposing additional measures to protect workers, or losing a percentage of the workforce due to quarantine requirements, would have a tangible impact.

This would not be a good development for an industry that has been pretty much been shutdown since March and trying to get back on its feet over the past two months.

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