LAGRANGE – More Hoosiers are back to work.
The state’s new unemployment numbers show most local counties are doing better than the state average.
Kosciusko, Marshall, Fulton and Pulaski Counties are also below the state average of 8%.
St. Joseph, Elkhart, Starke and LaPorte Counties are slightly above it.
And here’s a comeback – LaGrange County, which once had an unemployment rate of nearly 19% at the height of the recession, is now below 7%.
So, what’s its secret?
WSBT went inside a LaGrange County company that’s always growing.
At Open Range RV, they pump out 17 RVs a day, 4 days a week. Right now, about 300 people work there, and they plan to add to that number early next year, adding more jobs to the county and hopefully to the economy.
“We have an innovative design and target it to women’s taste,” said Tammy Holland of Open Range.
Their creativity is paying off.
Open Range RV has a high demand for this type of luxury, so they need more workers.
From September 2011 to September 2012, they increased their workforce by 12%, and they have no plans to stop.
In 2013, they’ll move production from 4 days to 5, hoping to add another 20% to their workforce.
“It’s the kind of movement that we like to see,” said Keith Gillenwater, president of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation.
Gillenwater is thrilled with the county’s comeback but not satisfied.
“We’re not where we want to be yet,” noted Gillenwater. “There’s no economic developer that’s happy with where they’re at. You shouldn’t be at least. We see the opportunity for growth in this community.”
Growth like Open Range RV – They have expanded into two production sites, adding more jobs.
For many companies here, local labor is the best option. There’s a strong Amish community in LaGrange County, workers who are skilled and dedicated to their jobs.