President Obama conducted his "Stimulus Plan" tour last week,
traveling across the country touting the need to act quickly and pass the bill through Congress. One of the stops along the way was Elkhart Indiana, a place where the recession has been felt as hard as anywhere in the nation.
Unemployment there has already reached 15 percent, a number far higher than the national average.Why is it so high? Perhaps because some of the main employers in Elkhart, also known as RV Capital of the World, are manufacturers such as Monaco Coach, Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International.
The President's visit to this particular town presented an interesting contrast to the administration's actual message. The stimulus package he promoted proposed three to four million new jobs in the next few years, with green and sustainable jobs leading the charge. While this is a terrific message, not once did he mention the fact that sales of RVs, a major economic force in the town, have been directly hit by the cost of fuel prices last summer.
RVs typically get between 7-14 miles per gallon on the open road. When gas
prices skyrocketed, it was hard enough to fill up a standard automobile's tank, let alone an Airstream or other RV. When gasoline is four dollars20a gallon, for many people, traveling that way just gets too expensive.
The point is that if the President goes to a town where one of the
main exports is a gas-guzzling road machine and makes promises about the
"new" economy, he should also be willing to tell its inhabitants the
truth about their own manufacturing base, which includes the fact that sales of RVs will probably not return to halcyon levels unless there are major changes in their fuel efficiency. It's great to extend unemployment benefits and try to instill hope in the new economy, but it's even greater to tell folks why they're actually unemployed.
Jonathan A. Schein is the publisher of MetroGreenBusiness.com and GreenBuildingsJobs.com