ELKHART, Ind. (AP) -- Things are not as bleak in Elkhart County as they might appear, with at least four businesses planning to move in within the next few months and more companies showing interest, Gov. Mitch Daniels said.
"People of enterprise see opportunity and seize it. They are seizing it here in Elkhart even while the world, for all we know, has yet to hit the bottom of the bottom of this trough," Daniels said during a news conference Thursday.
Daniels said seven companies have committed to moving to northern Indiana, investing $22.6 million and add more than 500 jobs. Four of those companies are moving to Elkhart County, investing $11.4 million and creating 200 jobs.
Among the companies in the announcement are Goshen-based money transmitter Intercambio Express, which plans to hire about 50 people in Elkhart, and Michigan-based office chair manufacturer izzy, which plans to hire 115 more workers over the next three years in Middlebury.
"The best thing that can happen in any economy is to have smaller business start or locate there," Daniels said. "Quite possibly one of these will become a large business over time. Small businesses are where the net new jobs in this economy have always come from, not from larger more mature businesses."
It's the first bit of good news Elkhart County, which has the state's highest unemployment rate at 18 percent because of job losses in the recreation vehicle industry, has received in a while. On Wednesday, U.S. Labor Department reported that the Elkhart-Goshen metro area the nation's biggest increase in its unemployment rate since last year, soaring 12.5 percentage points from a year earlier. Some 12,000 more people were jobless in the county during February than a year before.
Daniels said there was more good news for the county in the decision by the board that sets U.S. accounting standards on Thursday to give companies more leeway when valuing assets and reporting losses.
"That might lead to more availability of finance. That's the central problem with the economy. If you talk to people in the RV industry, that's what brought them to a screeching halt. It wasn't even expensive fuel, it wasn't a lack of willing customers even, it was the lack of financing for their dealers and their purchasers so I'm very hopeful that we're starting to see a turnaround there," he said.