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We have a phenomenal outdoor industry

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As summer settles in and outdoor activities fill our calendars, it’s time to take a look at what we do around here. It’s time to re-brand our industries and communities.

Stop talking about the RV industry. Start talking about the outdoor industry.

Granted, our region manufactures a lot of RVs. In fact, we manufacture about 80 percent of all RVs. Not only do we manufacture the RVs, we manufacture the things that go into them. So this industry is a large industry that makes a big product. It is a fun product used by families … outdoors.

The RV industry is growing because more families, from all age groups, are discovering the camping lifestyle. This may seem obvious, but let me point out again that the camping lifestyle is an outdoor lifestyle. Many of the recent advancements in RVs are in the amenities that are added to campers and RVs to make the outdoor experience even better. We have great companies making sound systems and televisions and other entertainment on the outside of the camper or RV. Most campers come with awnings to make it easier to sit outside when camping. Some newer models even include decks.

Another big seller in the RV world are “toy haulers.” These RVs have a fold-down ramp for motorcycles, four-wheelers or other fun vehicles — a recreational vehicle to carry your recreational vehicles. Then, there is the type of RV that carries a horse or two.

The bottom line is: We are not building vehicles, we are building outdoor experiences.

By referring to the outdoor industry, we are including other activities and products created in this region. Every day great companies like Bennington and Godfrey Marine make boats that we use for fun.

For many people, the perfect summer day includes sitting on a pontoon boat, on a lake, sipping a cocktail and visiting with friends. That perfect summer day is probably happening on a boat made in our region. Take a look at the boat next to you. That boat probably comes from this region, too.

In this region we also have the experience of Notre Dame football, which is an industry all its own. The games themselves are great occasions, bringing thousands of people into that stadium, an outdoor stadium, to root for tradition-laden Fighting Irish college football team. Or they may be rooting for the other team, but we won’t talk much about that.

In any case, these thousands of people are taking part in an exciting outdoor event. And even more people are enjoying the tailgating experience outside the stadium. The proper tailgate party setup includes food, drinks and games so people can have a great time, outdoors. Even though Notre Dame football weekends usually sell out all our indoor hotel rooms, all the action takes place outdoors.

In other outdoor stadiums around the world, people are enjoying the sporting event through sound systems made by Harman International (formerly Crown). The sound systems in outdoor fields like Lambeau Field and Lucas Oil Stadium (when the roof is open) come from Elkhart.

The South Bend-Elkhart region should be proud of its outdoor industry. No other region has such a concentration of outdoor-related products and activities. If they have a lot of outdoor recreation, it probably involves products made by us.

So let’s be proud of our industry. And let’s start calling it what it is. We have a phenomenal outdoor industry. Now get out there and enjoy it.

By Kyle Hannon
Chamber President/CEO

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