A little less than half of the national economic impact of recreational vehicle manufacturers and suppliers occurred in Indiana last year, and much of the activity producing it took place in the northeast and north-central parts of the state.
That was according to a new RVs Move America Economic Impact Study released June 3 at the RV Industry Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., where industry colleagues gather to showcase its strength and meet with federal policymakers.
The report showed the industry had a $114 billion impact on the U.S. economy, supporting close to 600,000 jobs, which contributed more than $32 billion in wages.
“What the study reveals is that RVs are not just the familiar highway scene of an American summer,” Gary Enyart, the association’s chairman, said in a statement.
“Indeed, RVs are the heart of an industry that has become an American juggernaut, a business that has tripled in size since the Great Recession (that ended in) 2009,” said Enyart, who also is mobile generator sales and coach care director for Onan/Cummins.
The industry’s nationwide economic impact includes:
• $68 billion generated by RV manufacturers and suppliers
• $25.6 billion by RV campgrounds and related travel
• $20.1 billion by RV sales and service activities.
• A comparable breakdown of the industry’s economic impact in Indiana includes:
• $31.4 billion generated by RV manufacturers and suppliers
• $575.7 million by RV campgrounds and related travel
• $481.4 million by RV sales and service activities
Of the state’s $31.4 billion generated by RV manufacturers and suppliers, $15.8 billion came from the 2nd Congressional District, which is served by Rep. Jackie Walorski, and $4 billion came from the 3rd Congressional District, which is served by Rep. Jim Banks.
The industry’s total impact of $16 billion in the 2nd district, which includes Elkhart County, supports 224 RV businesses and 42,159 jobs, which pay $2.9 billion in wages there.
Its total impact of $4.1 billion in the 3rd district, which includes Allen County, supports 107 RV businesses and 15,865 jobs, which pay $1 billion in wages.
The report showed 482,389 RVs were made in the United States last year, with motorized vehicles accounting for 12% of that and towable vehicles for 88%.
About 25 million Americans go RVing each year, it said, leading to activities such as hiking, boating, fishing and camping, which the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis considers part of a larger outdoor recreation economy that represents 2.2% of the country’s gross domestic product.
News in the report that RVing is more popular than ever and the industry is growing was well received at the annual meeting, said Kevin Broom, media relations director for RVIA, the Virginia-based trade association.
A 2.2% slice of the GDP is sizable, “and I think there’s a great deal of pride in that,” he said. “Much of it is centered right there in northern Indiana.”
The industry’s most recent monthly RV shipment data showed April’s 40,243 figure was down 15.2% from the same month the previous year, and July 2018 was the last time within 12 months that shipments had risen from a year earlier.
“The industry is still on track for this to be the third best year in its history. The best year was 2017 and the second was 2018,” Broom said.
RV manufacturers added production capacity to meet rising demand for their products, which reduced backlogs in their orders, and dealers who saw they didn’t have to order as many RVs as far in advance to avoid missing a sale to a customer adjusted their inventories, he said.
Other factors that may have contributed to lower shipments so far this year include higher interest rates and the impact of tariffs, although most manufacturers have been able to hold the line on pricing by adjusting the mix of what goes into the product or the companies they use as suppliers, Broom said.
“The longer the tariffs are left in place, the more difficult it is to hold the line on retail pricing and still continue to be profitable,” he said.
But, for now 2019 shipments are expected to provide the RV industry with the third best year in its history, and then increase in 2020, he said.
Studying the industry’s economic impact in a way that quantifies its presence in congressional districts “gives us a way to talk to Congressional representatives and regulators,” Broom said.
RV industry and Bureau of Economic Analysis data showing the importance of RVing and the outdoor recreation economy can help members of Congress find support for funding needed to maintain, improve and expand campground sites at national parks.
At the industry’s annual Move America Week gathering, “we’ve been having meetings today, and tomorrow we’ll go up on Capitol Hill to meet with congressional representatives,” Broom said June 3.
Indiana officials on the list of RV industry meetings confirmed for June 4 included both of the state’s senators — Mike Braun and Todd Young — as well as Banks, Walorski and Reps. Gregory Pence of Columbus and Jim Baird of Greencastle.