By Marilyn Odendahl, Truth Staff

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GOSHEN -- Keystone RV Co. is expanding its western operations but a company official maintains Elkhart County will remain the home for recreational vehicle manufacturing.

Based in Goshen, Keystone has purchased the former Fleetwood travel trailer facility in Pendleton, Ore., and will begin building units there in the spring. The property was bought out of bankruptcy and includes two large production plants on 21 acres of land.

This acquisition will grow Keystone's presence on the West coast. It is already building the Cougar, Springdale, Hornet and Energy models at facilities within a mile of the newly purchased campus.

Jayco Inc., based in Middlebury, is also bolstering its plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, according to RVBusiness. The company plans to hire about 30 more workers to increase output and meet rising demand.

Building units in the West significantly lowers freight costs to dealers in that part of the country, said Ron Fenech, Keystone president and chief executive officer. However, he dismissed the idea that a movement to the West will, at some point, dilute Elkhart County's concentration of RV manufacturing.

"I don't think this is any indication that Elkhart is going to lose its standing as the RV capital," Fenech said. "We have much more efficiency in our production in Indiana than in Oregon because of the suppliers based here and the relative location to the whole country."

A phone call to the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce was not returned Wednesday afternoon.

Keystone bought the Pendleton buildings out of bankruptcy, Fenech said. Fleetwood Enterprises declared bankruptcy in March and the RV division was purchased by American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV in July for $33.2 million.

The Goshen company is still deciding which models will be built in the new Oregon plants but, Fenech said, production is scheduled to start in the spring.

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