WNDU16 News: Utilimaster on the Move



600 full time jobs are leaving Wakarusa, although they are not leaving Michiana or even Elkhart County.

Step van and delivery truck manufacturer Utilimaster is moving to Bristol by the end of 2012.

“We looked at alternatives in the State of Michigan, in the State of Indiana and beyond,” said John A. Forbes, Utilimaster President. “Having the opportunity to find this building within Elkhart County we’re really excited about that, it keeps our team intact and great facility to grow our business in pushing forward.”

Forbes today spoke from the vacant building chosen to be the future home of Utilimaster. The building used to house RV supplier Odyssey until 2009. It is located in Bristol’s Earthway Industrial Park about 20 miles east of Utilimaster’s current home.

“Wakarusa as a town, as a community hasn’t done anything wrong,” said Forbes.

Forbes explained that Utilimaster’s Wakarusa campus now spans 106 acres and its operations are spread out in 16 separate buildings.

It’s to the point where the typical truck has already traveled two and a half miles before it ever makes it off the Utilimaster assembly line.

“So our product flows from building to building, not in the most efficient fashion, putting our operations under one roof gives us a great opportunity to do things in a higher quality environment,” said Forbes.

The new building in Bristol should also provide increased safety and efficiency.

Utilimaster’s Valentine’s Day announcement also came with an expressed hope that the Town of Wakarusa would find somebody else to fill the void.

“We understand our responsibility to work with the Town of Wakarusa to market the properties (left behind), to bring new opportunities and new jobs to Wakarusa. We understand that responsibility, we take it very seriously and we’ll work with them to accomplish that,” said Forbes. “We own the buildings in Wakarusa, so certainly it’s in our best interest to sell them as well.”

Selling is something Utilimaster appears to be good at. Last year the company’s sales were up 46 percent.

Utilimaster was founded in 1973 in Wakarusa. While the move to Bristol is not expected to create any new jobs immediately—it is not expected to result in any layoffs either.

Forbes said that Utilimaster considered plant sites in several states, including some in the U.S. south, before settling on the Bristol location.


-Mark Peterson, WNDU