By Kevin Tibbles, NBC News correspondent
In the year or so that the economy has been in the tank we have been spending quite a bit of time in Elkhart County, Indiana. It's the kind of place that boasts small towns with leafy streets and even a few old-fashioned soda shops. There's quite a bit of history here too. Did you know Alka Seltzer was invented here? Or that, at one time, Elkhart's claim to fame was the manufacture of brass band instruments? Lately, Elkhart has been the creator or maker of Recreational Vehicles for America and beyond. The recession dealt a body blow to that industry, one it is still trying to recover from.
At the height of the downturn this battered corner of the nation had an unemployment rate pushing 19 percent. Today is still more than 16 percent, and nearly 12 thousand households rely on food stamps. Our first visit to the region was to cover a charitable organization handing out food packages.
Tonight we report on, hopefully, a better trend. Our colleague Nick McGurk at South Bend affiliate WNDU told us some of the RV companies were tooling up again. One in particular, Keystone, plans to re-hire some 500 employees in coming months as orders are on the rise. There is still a long way to go in a place decimated by recession; still as one Keystone employee told me, "I see a light at the end of the tunnel; but it's a candle and it's windy."