In the depths of the Great Recession, Elkhart, Ind., unemployment reached 20.2 percent, prompting President Obama to come see for himself (and make the case for federal stimulus for the national economy). Three years later, the metro is thriving, with the second-best annual job growth among metro areas. The reason: manufacturing. Touting itself as "the RV capital of the world" and "the band instrument capital of the world," the northern Indiana metro has seen factory jobs grow 13.5 percent.
Thor Motor Coach, a company formed in the recession's aftermath when two recreational vehicle makers were forced to merge to survive, has seen RV sales rise 30 percent in its latest quarter from a year ago. Conn-Selmer, the band instrument company that went nonunion after a year-long strike, has just announced a plan to add up to 23 jobs in Elkhart. Unemployment is now down to 8.3 percent. However, both companies are feeling headwinds from the national economy that may prove challenging in the coming months.