Travel trailers sit outside of the Chinook RV production facility on Eel River Cemetery Road on Thursday in Miami County. Staff photo by Jared Keever
Travel trailers sit outside of the Chinook RV production facility on Eel River Cemetery Road on Thursday in Miami County. Staff photo by Jared Keever
An Indiana manufacturer of mobile homes and travel trailers has consolidated its operations in Miami County and is now looking to expand.

“We started here with just five employees,” Chinook RV General Manager Jeff Butler told the Tribune on Thursday. “Now we are 65 employees strong. We need to hire another 100 to 150.”

That modest start here came around the beginning of 2019, Butler said as he talked through the company’s history and how the manufacturing ended up just outside of Peru on Eel River Cemetery Road.

The name Chinook, dates back decades, he explained.

The company, a well known Washington state-based manufacturer of motorhomes was purchased after the 2008 recession by Nevada-based Phil Rizzio who wanted to resurrect the brand.

That started around 2012, Butler explained. A plant was opened in Elkhart and Butler was hired in 2017 to develop prototypes for production.

In November 2018, the company had the opportunity to purchase the assets of Riverside RV in Miami County where they started manufacturing travel trailers.

That business has been up and running since, but Butler explained that splitting resources and time between two locations was making little sense from a business standpoint and this year they made the decision to move the Class B motorhome production from Elkhart to Miami County.

“We are just starting to wrap it up,” Butler said.

That transition will see the second structure on the company’s property converted from a drab warehouse space to a painted and bright production facility.

Much of that work is already completed and workers were in the newer space Thursday, getting production lines ready and starting work on some of the first prototypes that will roll out onto the newly paved lot.

“This is the rebirth of a legend,” Butler said before hopping up from his desk for a tour of that facility.

That’s how he says Rizzio views the work that is being done to bring back the name of a manufacturer that was well known for decades in the business.

And things are looking up.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a boom in the RV industry.

Butler says it is understandable. People still want to travel, he said, but they don’t necessarily want to stay in hotels or share spaces with others.

Travel trailers and mobile homes fill that need.

“You know who slept in the bed, you know who touched all the door knobs,” he said.

Butler said to fill the orders they are expecting to come in, they are ramping up the hiring process and starting to reach out to the community, knowing that many travel to the RV production center of Elkhart daily for work.

He hopes he can convince some in the Peru, Logansport and Wabash areas that they no longer need to make that trip as the positions start to open up.

“We are trying to give them an option,” he said. “It’s a big lifestyle change if you are doing that commute.”

He said he also knows that many may have lost work with the closure of the Square D plant and other manufacturing plants in the area recently.

If they know how to work with their hands and have electrical or carpentry or other skills, Butler said they are interested in talking.

“And we will train those people,” he said.
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