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Elkhart County, local companies discuss long term solutions for growing industries

ELKHART, Ind. -- With an unemployment rate at 2.4 percent, Elkhart County is employing more people than it thought it could, which is forcing the county and local businesses to think about the long term solutions that can keep up with the growing industries in the area. 

Four years ago Tekmodo Industries entered the manufacturing industry. 

“We saw an opportunity in the marketplace to manufacture products," said Jake Vogel. 

Over the years its grown, and the company now develops, manufactures, and distributes advanced composite products with applications in recreational and transportation vehicles, construction, and filtration industries. But the companies growth is far from over. 

"The real growth is expected to come here with these products that we’ve been in development on," said Vogel. "We expect to hire quite a few more employees for these operations.”

It's the growth at companies like this one, that represent Elkhart County’s growing manufacturing industry and low unemployment rate. 

According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, 11,826 manufacturing jobs were added in Elkhart County since 2012. Elkhart County is tied for the lowest unemployment rate in Indiana. Elkhart County's current unemployment rate is 2.4 percent. However, there are growing pains. 

“A problem that we are faced with is obviously is trying to find a workforce for companies that are trying to move here," said Bart Fore. 

According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development of the 9500 open jobs in Elkhart County, 2000 of the open jobs are in the manufacturing industry. 

With most abled-workers in the county already employed, it's forcing companies and the county to look else where to fill those positions. 

“I have seen that happening," said Fore. 

Fore with WorkOne of Northern Indiana said automation is a trend. 

“I think RV companies are starting to look at that because this would be a way to fill that gap," said Fore. 

But that doesn't mean workers should be afraid of automation. 

“Elkhart county leads the country in automation, computerized machinery per capita," said Fore. "That means we have a lot of companies that are already using automation.”

Vogel agreed, “Automation helps improve efficiency, safety.”

Vogel added current and future employees should look at machines as a tool and not a threat. 

“There’s still going to be a need for the employees to assemble the products here," said Vogel. "Like I said I never see an assembly line there’s just too much variability." 

Vogel and Fore added that automation doesn’t necessarily mean replacing people with a machine. It’s more about training those workers to operate the machines. They added programs like Governor Eric Holcomb's NextLevel Jobs program is providing funding and resources to help with that. 

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