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LIGONIER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — In what appears to be unrelenting demand for recreational vehicles, Indiana’s RV sector and the communities where plants are located are experiencing “boom times.” That includes the city of Ligonier where Forest River Inc. announced plans Wednesday to acquire 160,000-square-feet of manufacturing space and create 500 new jobs. The RV maker already employs about 160 workers in the Noble County city.

“I don’t know how it can get any better,” said Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel in an interview with Inside INdiana Business. “I mean things are just happening. One thing right after the other. Expansion of businesses. New businesses coming in.”

Forest River, which is headquartered in Elkhart, says it will acquire three existing buildings in the Ligonier Industrial Park, which will be used for its IBEX series of lightweight towables. But the plans could go even further, according to Noble County economic development officials.

In addition to the IBEX production line, Forest River also intends to invest more than $4 million to acquire 65 acres in Ligonier to construct three, 95,000 square foot buildings and add over $400,000 in new machinery and equipment.

“We are excited to continue expanding our operations in Noble County where we have access to a talented workforce, strong RV manufacturing history and ecosystem, and business-friendly environment,” said Forest River Director of Relations Mike Stump. “The diversity of Forest River, Inc. enables us to approach the RV industry with a unique perspective, incorporating lessons learned at each one of our divisions.”

One of the buildings Forest River is buying was formally used by Michigan-based Vibracoustics Inc. The company, that manufacturers vibration dampeners for the auto industry, notified the state last December it was shutting down its Ligonier facility. Eighty-five workers lost their jobs.

Fisel says Forest River’s acquisition provides a silver lining to those losses.

“It is never easy to see jobs lost, as we did when Vibracoustic pulled out last year. This is a great transition and opportunity for us to keep our people working and the community growing,” said Fisel.

Fisel, who is now in her 4th term, says Forest River is a strong community partner and its additional investment builds upon that relationship.

“Forests River’s presence is going to open up doors that have not been opened before,” said Fisel. “We know our workforce is a great fit for them.”

The Ligonier Industrial Development Corp. has agreed to invest in site preparation in support of upcoming, new construction. The city of Ligonier is also expected to consider a 10-year tax abatement on real property and personal property investments in coming weeks.

Fisel says Ligonier’s efforts to drive business growth is also occurring on the city’s south side. She says officials are working on a mixed-used development for a nearly 120-acre property that would include industrial, residential and commercial space. Mayor Patty Fisel says the city is also hoping to attract a new hotel. IIB reported on the southside growth last month.

“The key of the whole thing is we work with people when you come into our city. We will do everything we can. We get all of our departments together, our sewer, our water and streets, everybody, and we will set down and we will work with you from the very beginning.”

LIGONIER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Elkhart-based Forest River RV has announced plans to expand in Noble County. The manufacturer says it has acquired three buildings totaling nearly 160,000 square feet in the Ligonier Industrial Park with plans to create about 500 jobs over the next few years, but there are also plans to expand even further.

The newly-acquired buildings will house Forest River’s IBEX Travel Trailer production, parts and service center. The company says it expects to ramp up production by the end of the month, with the first travel trailer expected to come off the production line in early December.

“We are excited to continue expanding our operations in Noble County where we have access to a talented workforce, strong RV manufacturing history and ecosystem, and business-friendly environment,” said Mike Stump, director of public relations for Forest River Inc. “We are grateful for the support of the City of Ligonier, their local and county development partners, and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and look forward to welcoming new employees who will help us continue to deliver high-quality products to customers around the world.”

The Noble County Economic Development Corp. says Forest River’s expansion in Ligonier isn’t stopping with the acquired buildings. The company also has plans to invest $4.4 million to acquire an additional 65 acres in the industrial park and build three, 95,000-square-foot buildings. While additional details have not been released, the company says it expects to add more than 300 additional jobs when the project is complete.

“This is a great win for the City of Ligonier, of course, but also for all of Noble County,” said Gary Gatman, executive director of the Noble County EDC. “It is a great example of how we can grow the local economy when we collaborate and work together. We welcome Forest River’s expansions and look forward to a long and prosperous partnership in Noble County.”

Forest River already has a presence in Ligonier and employs some 160 workers. In August, the company detailed plans to expand its operations in DeKalb and LaGrange counties and add nearly 370 jobs by 2023.

LIGONIER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Officials in Ligonier are looking to a new development on the city’s south side to help drive business growth. A mixed-use development is planned for a nearly 120-acre property that would include industrial, residential and commercial space. Mayor Patty Fisel says the city is also hoping to attract a new hotel so visitors don’t have to seek overnight accommodations elsewhere in Noble County or a neighboring county.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Fisel said having a new hotel would be key for the city and county.

“We know that our innkeepers tax goes to the county that it is spent in,” said Fisel. “Noble County butts right up against LaGrange County and Elkhart County and so normally, our industry – which we have a tremendous industrial base already on the north side of town – normally, they send their people to Elkhart County because the closest hotel/motel would be in Kendallville. So, we are primed for the location.”

The project could be located near U.S. 6 and U.S. 33 in Ligonier. An estimated cost of the development is not yet known, but about 50 acres of the property has been zoned for residential growth, 52 acres have been zoned for industrial use, and about 15 acres have been zoned for commercial business development.

Fisel says the majority of the city’s existing industrial space is occupied and there is little room for growth, which makes the proposed new industrial space imperative for the city. The mayor is also looking to add a new grocery retailer for the city of 4,400.

Brian Shearer, chief of police and public safety director for the city, says the developers have not yet come to the city with a proposed timeline for the project. However, he says the city has received interest in potential development at the site.

The mayor says marketing the property will be key to getting development underway.

“I’m committed to this project,” the mayor said. “We’ve been working on it for long enough that I’m convinced that if we can get someone in there just to move dirt and to do something, I think from there, it’ll just go. A lot of people don’t know it’s there. They don’t know its annexed. The main thing is that we get the word out that the property is available.”

LIGONIER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Michigan-based manufacturer has detailed plans to shut down its northeast Indiana operations. In a notice to the state, Vibracoustic USA Inc. says it will close the doors to its facility in Ligonier, a move that will affect nearly 85 employees.

Vibracoustic manufactures torsional vibration dampeners for the automotive industry at the Noble County plant, according to its website. The company did not provide a reason for the facility’s closure.

As a result of the closure, the company says all employees at the site will be laid off. However, the affected employees will be eligible to transfer to new roles at other Vibracoustic locations.

The layoffs are scheduled to begin in January and continue in phases through the end of June.

Inside INdiana Business had reached out to Vibracoustic for comment on the closure.

LIGONIER, Ind. (AP) – A multi-agency raid on a northern Indiana home has yielded more than $1 million in drugs and resulted in several arrests.

Noble County police say officers who executed a search warrant Thursday on a Ligonier home found nearly 20 pounds of crystal meth, more than 100 pounds of marijuana and nearly $80,000 in cash.

The Journal Gazette reports police say the drugs seized have a street value of more than a $1 million.

Police also discovered drug paraphernalia, about 50 loaded firearms and several dirt and street bikes and ATVs believed to be stolen.

Four people were arrested and two juveniles were placed with local child services.

Noble County, Kendallville and Ligonier officers conducted the search with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and State Police.

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