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Whitmer Announces Economic Development Grants For RV Manufacturing In Sturgis

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday that the city of Sturgis will receive economic development grants to fund two recreational vehicle manufacturing campuses. 

Cruiser RV and Heartland RV –– both owned by Elkhart-based Thor Industries –– are opening their first Michigan campuses in Sturgis. A release from the governor’s office says the companies chose Michigan over competing sites in Indiana “primarily because of the availability of skilled workers in the area.” 


According to the release, the projects are expected to generate $39.5 million in private investment and 450 new jobs. 


Each company will receive a $700,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Business Development Program. Heartland will also receive over $307,000 from the state’s transportation economic development fund to cover infrastructure improvements associated with the project.


The release says the city of Sturgis is contributing over $165,000 in funding, and is offering property tax abatements to support the projects. 


(Read the full release from the governor’s office below.)

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today announced economic development grants for RV manufacturers Cruiser RV and Heartland Recreational Vehicles in support of two new manufacturing campuses in Sturgis, further evidence of continued economic recovery in the state and Michigan’s leadership in manufacturing. The projects are expected to support 450 new jobs in St. Joseph County. 


“Michigan’s business climate and highly skilled manufacturing workforce are creating an environment where businesses like Heartland RV and Cruiser RV can thrive and grow, creating good jobs in St. Joseph County,” said Governor Whitmer. “This is great news for workers, their families, and our economy as we continue our economic jumpstart and put Michigan back to work. With the help of companies like Cruiser RV and Heartland RV, we can build back our state’s economy stronger than ever.”  


The two projects are expected to generate a total private investment of $35.9 million and create a total of 450 high-wage jobs, each resulting in a $700,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. The Heartland RV expansion is also being supported by a $307,277 state Transportation Economic Development Fund grant to help fund infrastructure improvements associated with project. The companies chose Michigan for the projects over competing sites in Indiana, primarily because of the availability of skilled workers in the area.  


Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC, a subsidiary of THOR Industries since 2010, manufactures travel trailers, toy haulers, and fifth wheel recreational vehicles based in Elkhart, IN.  Cruiser RV, LLC, a subsidiary of Heartland RV since 2015, manufactures a variety of lightweight towable recreational vehicles, including travel trailers, toy haulers, and fifth wheel units, based in Howe, IN. Both companies sell to authorized dealer networks throughout the US and Canada. THOR Industries, Inc. is the sole owner of operating companies which, combined, represent one of the world's largest manufacturers of recreational vehicles. Both Cruiser and Heartland are experiencing steady and strong demand for their products. 


“From all of us at Cruiser and Heartland RV, we would like to thank the state of Michigan, city of Sturgis and each organization that assisted our company with the process for expanding business operations in Michigan, your partnership is greatly appreciated,” said Ryan Juday, president of Cruiser RV and Heartland RV. “Having access to a strong pool of talent was one of the primary reasons we chose Michigan for these expansions. This is an exciting time and we are proud to invest in a state and region that has been supportive in our mission to expand while providing excellent employment opportunities to the community.”   


The city of Sturgis is offering property tax abatements in support of the projects, and Southwest Michigan First assisted the companies in identifying sites for the projects. The Michigan Strategic Fund also authorized a State Education Tax Abatement to the Heartland project to be used in conjunction with the local abatement.  


“Michigan is pleased to welcome Cruiser and Heartland to our state as they create 450 new manufacturing jobs and tap into a robust, highly skilled talent pool. The message is clear:Michigan’s economy is recovering, and we willcontinue to work on building a championship economy here in the state,” said Quentin Messer, Jr., CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and President and Chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund. “We appreciate the efforts of our local partners in Southwest Michigan to support these projects and will work with the companies as they continue to grow and add jobs for Michigan residents.” 


The Michigan Department of Transportation TEDF grant will help support work performed by the City of Sturgis – which is contributing $165,458 in funding – including rebuilding roads in the area and reworking drainage.  


“This grant demonstrates the collaborative efforts around economic development and infrastructure we are taking here in the state and move us toward our goals of creating good jobs for Michigan workers while ensuring safe roads for Michigan drivers,” said Paul Ajegba, Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “I am pleased that we were able to collaborate with Heartland RV and the city of Sturgis to secure the growth of the company and improve the road network in this area.” 


“The City of Sturgis is excited that Cruiser RV and Heartland RV have chosen our community for their most recent expansion projects. These two projects bring an influx of quality jobs to our community and add another new industry to our already strong and diverse manufacturing base here in Sturgis,” said Sturgis City Manager Michael Hughes. “We look forward to working with Cruiser and Heartland as these projects are developed and on into the future as new corporate citizens. Thank you to our economic development partners at the state, regional, county, and local levels who helped make these projects possible. We are grateful to have a tremendous team help grow economic opportunity here in St. Joseph County.” 


“We look forward to the ongoing impact to both the St. Joseph County and surrounding regional area economy that will accompany today’s announcements of a total of nearly $36 million in investment and at least 450 new jobs to be created by Cruiser RV and Heartland RV,” said Carla Sones, president and interim CEO of Southwest Michigan First. “The companies’ decision to build these new manufacturing campuses speaks to the highly skilled workforce and quality of life in Southwest Michigan. We thank company leadership and our partners at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Department of Transportation, City of Sturgis, Michigan Works! Southwest, and Glen Oaks Community College for providing the resources to make these exciting projects happen.”  


In addition to building on Michigan’s manufacturing leadership, the project also highlights Michigan’s travel and tourism industries. Camping is a key contributor to Michigan’s $26.3 billion tourism industry, and Michigan offers 1,300 campgrounds representing 147,563 sites on state and federal lands designated for camping. 


“Michigan offers natural beauty that is unrivaled by any other state, and there’s no better way to experience Michigan’s natural wonders than through the joys of camping,” said Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of MEDC. “We’re pleased to welcome Cruiser and Heartland to Pure Michigan and we look forward to partnering with them as we get more Michiganders into RVs experiencing all the joys that RVing has to offer.” 


According to the Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), national RV sales for 2021 are on the rise, with year-end sales estimated to be a 33.8 percent increase over the 2020 year-end total. Michigan continues to be one of the top five states for RV deliveries, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. 


“We are pleased that THOR Industries recognizes the strategic industry and recreational importance Michigan offers for their upcoming manufacturing expansion plans,” said MARVAC Director Darren Ing. “Michigan is close to their existing headquarters, has a deep talent pool and is one of the top destination states for RV travels. We look forward to this new partnership and the opportunities it presents.”  


Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.


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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.