Threading through the city are the St. Joesph and Elkhart Rivers. Lined with stately homes, or picturesque tree-filled parks, the rivers provide a constantly changing perspective throughout the city. Whether you're boating, skiing, fishing, skating, or just enjoying the view, the rivers of Elkhart add immeasurably to the city's charm.
Elkhart is centrally located with Chicago and Indianapolis just a short drive away. Though big city lights are easily reached, a short drive can also take Elkhart residents into the heart of one of the largest Amish communities in the United States, complete with quaint clothes, century-old traditions, and horse-drawn buggies. For many people, Elkhart provides the best of both worlds, from countryside to big city.
Though it began as a pioneer outpost for loggers, trappers and traders, Elkhart soon capitalized on the readily available water power to become a busy manufacturing center in the mid 1850s. From that early beginning, manufacturing has continued to power the local economy. Recent years have seen steady manufacturing growth and diversification. Through the recent past, up to the present day, Elkhart has been blessed with extraordinarily low unemployment and a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
Elkhart is home to some of the most famous manufactured products in the world. It is here that Alka-Seltzer, Bactine and One-A-Day vitamins were invented and are still produced. The site, formerly Miles Laboratories, is now owned and operated by Bayer AG, a German-based pharmaceutical giant. Elkhart is also the most important American city for the production of band instruments. An entrepreneur named C. G. Conn began manufacturing trumpets, cornets, and other horns here during the last century, and the resulting pool of talented craftspeople attracted other major instrument manufacturers, including Selmer, Bach, Gemeinhardt, and others. Conn's company still lives on as United Musical Instruments.
Many people around the country also recognize Elkhart as the headquarters of the recreational vehicle industry (see Coachmen, Four Winds, Starcraft, Dynamax). RV trailers, motor homes and campers--first built as an offshoot of the manufactured housing industry after the Second World War--now represent the largest single economic segment of the local economy. Besides the numerous manufacturing facilities, Elkhart is also home to many of the suppliers, assemblers, and related businesses that support the RV industry. The manufactured housing industry itself is still a key part of the economy, too.
Though thousands of people work directly for the industries mentioned above, the Elkhart area has all the diversity you'd expect to find in a city her size; from butcher shops to book stores; computer programmers to interior decorators.
Elkhart is a paradise for shoppers. Boutiques and shops are scattered among the banks and offices and along major roads. A number of regional malls are also within a short driving distance including the University Park Mall, Concord Mall, Pierre Moran Mall, Northpoint Plaza and Midway Plaza. For those who prefer to dine out, Elkhart restaurants give them plenty of variety in price, food, service and style.
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