By Lauren Zeugner
SYRACUSE — U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski stopped by Travel Lite, located in the Syracuse Technology and Industrial Park, to take a tour Monday afternoon, Aug. 9.
Bruce Korenstra, an investor in Travel Lite, thanked Walorski and her staff for their assistance in Travel Lite getting an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program back in February. “One call and a day later PPP was funded, Korenstra said. “We weren’t sure we would survive.”
Walorski noted industry and heavy manufacturing, which was deemed essential during the height of the pandemic, brought Indiana $2.5 to $ 3 billion in PPP funds. “We had a hot line in… by that time we had a zip line in to get things established, ” she said.
Walorski said she had never been a part of something, such as PPP, that occurred so fast in her congressional career.
Korenstra and Ryan Rebar, CEO and general manager of Travel Lite, were also eager to show Walorski Travel Lite’s newest product, a smaller RV that can be towed by a smaller vehicle. The new RV is built totally of composite materials, weighs only 1,500 pounds and will fit in most garages.
“It’s good for the economy and people want to RV and camp, ” Walorski said as she inspected two finished Rove Lite’s.
Walorski explained she recently sat in on a national roundtable discussion on the RV industry, “it was really interesting what people were selling, what people wanted and the (RV) parks aren’t even big enough (to handle the increase in campers).”
Future plans are to turn a slightly larger model of the Rove into an all-electric RV with solar panels on the roof. The RV will allow campers to be completely off-grid if they want. The new electric RV will be showcased in September during Open House.
During her visit, Walorski also inspected two truck campers which is how Travel Lite got started in 1989. Rebar explained the camper can be free-standing, allowing the owner to have full use of their vehicle without bringing the camper with them.
Both Korenstra and Rebar said their biggest challenges are getting “parts and pieces,” and more employees. Due to the supply issues, Travel Lite has had to continually switch between the RV and truck camper lines.
Walorski blamed the Biden administration for extending federal unemployment benefits, which according to her, encouraged people to stay home.
According to Walorski, due to the federal unemployment benefits, “The average wage to get people to stay home was $17.20.” She said she is proud of the fact that an issue she was slammed on, she was able to get results.
Travel Lite currently has 63 employees and hopes to have 100 in the near future. Rebar told Waloski he wants to get “parts and pieces and put people to work.”