High fuel prices and poor economic conditions sweeping the country apparently are catching up with the local recreational vehicle industry.
Northwood, founded by Ron Nash in 1994, makes Arctic Fox and Nash fifth wheels and travel trailers, and Desert Fox travel trailers. - The Observer/CHRIS BAXTER
Representatives of Northwood Manufacturing aren’t talking, but stories circulating in the community say the company, which builds RVs at the Union County Airport Industrial Park, has laid off at least 30 workers.
Chris Snyder of La Grande was one of them. It happened last Thursday.
“My lead walked up to me with a smile on his face and said, ‘Guess what?’ ” Snyder said. He added that the company told him market conditions were to blame.
“They said it was a permanent layoff because of the economy,” Snyder said. “I was very surprised. I’ve been out there four years and I work in a department where there is absolutely no lack of work.”
Calls placed Monday and Tuesday by The Observer to Northwood owner Ron Nash were not returned.
Northwood, founded by Nash in 1994, makes Arctic Fox and Nash fifth wheels and travel trailers, and Desert Fox travel trailers.
The company’s Website says Northwood is one of the area’s largest private employers, with close to 400 workers.
Northwood is one of three recreational vehicle manufacturers in Union County. The others include Fleetwood Manufacturing near Island City and Eagle Cap Campers at the airport complex.
Kathy Munson, Fleetwood’s director of investor relations, said from her office in Riverside, Calif., that the La Grande Fleetwood plant laid off 17 workers indefinitely last Friday. Munson said market conditions were the cause.
“Depending on what sources you’re looking at, the RV industry is down about 20 percent,” she said. “We’re always trying to match our output to market demand.”
Munson said 210 people were employed at the La Grande facility as of May 1.
She said she did not know whether those still employed are currently putting in a full 40-hour work week.
The third Union County RV manufacturer, Eagle Cap Campers, employs 57 people and has not laid off anyone yet.
But General Manager Mony Pen said he is worried about market conditions and what will happen in the future.
“It’s week to week for us. I cannot predict anything,” he said. “So far it’s been good but that could change.”
The Oregon Employment Department said Tuesday it had no information regarding a spike in unemployment in the manufacturing job sector.
Regional economist Jason Yohannan said the department plans to release April unemployment data on May 19, and May data June 23.
Yohannan said that the overall unemployment rate for Union County is likely to start coming down because of the summer season.
He said it appears that unemployment is higher now than it was this time a year ago. But then, 2007 is a hard act to follow.
“Remember, last year was a very good year,” he said