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Back home to Elkhart, "primed" for 2010

ELKHART, Ind. -- Returning to his hometown, Chris Burkhead hopes he's seeing signs of change in the devastated local economy.
When first profiled in July in "Faces of Elkhart," the third-generation member of two highly successful family businesses was living in Davenport Iowa, telecommuting as chief estimator for the larger concern, Indiana Plastics, while his wife, Angela Lucterhand, studied to be a chiropractor.

Image: Chris Burkhead

John Makely / msnbc.com

Chris Burkhead, project estimator with Indiana Plastics, Inc in Elkhart, Ind.

Though he was involved in the company business throughout, and traveling frequently back to Elkhart, Burkhead has watched his town suffer much of the recessionary storm from a distance.
With Lucterhand nearing the completion of her studies, the couple recently returned to Elkhart with their two dogs, Snoop and Bootsie, and visions of making their life here. They're renting for now, but will look to buy their own place -- "just a good starter house" -- once Lucterhand has finished an internship and started to practice.
In the meantime, Burkhead, 26, said his family's enterprises, which include Kruis Mold and Engineering and are run by his aunt, uncle and stepdad, are feeling a decline in sales but "still doing fine," as they were when he described the family's rather simple formula for success in the July article: Make quality products, keep customers happy, constantly improve efficiency and avoid debt.
And he sees positive signs elsewhere in Elkhart, starting with a number of new and reinstated jobs in the RV industry. Friends recently opened an upscale restaurant, McCarthy's on the Riverwalk, which was booming with lunch business on a Monday earlier this month.
"Things seem to be OK," Burkhead said. At Indiana Plastics, "We've gained a couple new customers this year and that will really kick off next year. We're pretty primed for a good 2010."