Amazon Opens New Facilities In Elkhart, Indiana
Elkhart, Indiana has long been a major center for RV manufacturing in the US. In fact, workers travel from far and wide to work in Elkhart, where the unemployment rate is only 0.9%.
But a new player has announced plans to open two new facilities in Elkhart. In October of 2021, Amazon announced it would be opening two new facilities in Elkhart. With Elkhart’s labor force already so occupied, and RV and boat manufacturers facing labor shortages, what effect will Amazon’s plans have on the industry there?
Let’s take a closer look at Amazon’s plans in Elkhart and how they might affect the RV manufacturing industry in the area.
The new Amazon fulfillment centers
The first facility is a huge 800,000 square foot Amazon fulfillment center that will be located on the Indiana Toll Road. This will be joined by a smaller delivery station close to the Elkhart Municipal Airport. Both are expected to open in 2023.
Amazon has invested over $200 million in the projects and promises starting wages of $18 per hour plus benefits. The fulfillment center will primarily use automation and robots, but Amazon is still expecting to hire around 1,000 workers for the two sites.
This isn’t Amazon’s debut in Indiana, either. They’ve invested over $15 billion across the state since 2010 and have created over 20,000 jobs there. They’ve also helped create another 29,000 indirect jobs in industries like construction and logistics.
With such a strong investment in Indiana, it’s no surprise they’re growing their involvement in the state with these new facilities. But could these new facilities have an effect on the existing RV manufacturing industry in the area?
How could Amazon affect RV manufacturing in the area?
Elkhart is already a major center for RV manufacturing as well as boat manufacturing. And at present, the Elkhart-Goshen metropolitan area has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at only 0.9%. On top of this, 40,000 workers come from outside the county to work there every day.
In fact, RV and boat manufacturers in the area are already facing labor shortages, just like many other industries nationwide. And if Amazon is able to draw away workers from these industries, that labor shortage might get much worse.
In a worst-case scenario, this could mean the decline of RV manufacturing in the area. If manufacturers aren’t able to find workers, they may be forced to close up shop or move elsewhere. Even if things don’t get as dire, there could still be some decline in the local RV manufacturing industry.
However, officials from Elkhart are optimistic. For the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners, this is an opportunity to diversify the local economy and foster local growth.
In fact, many are hopeful that Amazon’s new facilities will draw in even more workers from outside the area, rather than stealing workers away. With so many commuters already coming to Elkhart to work, and the fulfillment center’s convenient location on a major highway, there’s good reason to be optimistic.
On top of this, Amazon’s $18 per hour starting wage is lower than RV manufacturers in the area, who are hiring at $20+ per hour. While Amazon does have attractive benefits policies, there’s a good chance they’ll struggle to pull workers away from the RV industry in Elkhart.
If things work out as officials hope, there will likely be little to no impact on the local RV manufacturing industry. In fact, if Elkhart does see local growth and an increase in workers coming from outside areas, the industry could even grow.
RV manufacturing in Elkhart is here to stay
While some have voiced concerns about where Amazon will find workers in Elkhart County, there’s likely no reason to worry.
While Amazon might be an attractive option for many workers, they’re unlikely to draw away too many from the RV manufacturing industry in the area. Especially considering the fact that the RV industry there is paying better wages than Amazon is offering.
While in a worst-case scenario the RV industry in Elkhart might lose some workers, there are unlikely to be any major ill effects in the long term. We won’t likely see the end of the RV manufacturing industry in Elkhart any time soon.
One of the best parts about RVing is engaging with the community of traveling enthusiasts. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and much more.