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Winnebago will open new plant outside of Forest City

Randy Potts


FOREST CITY | Winnebago Industries can't find enough employees in the Forest City area to continue to grow so it will open an additional plant in another community, company officials said Thursday.

More employees would have improved the financial numbers from the second quarter of fiscal year 2015 for Winnebago, company officials said.

"We can't build enough product to grow our business without the people," Randy Potts, chief executive officer, said.

"We don't have an unlimited amount of people to recruit from in this area," Chief Financial Officer Sarah Nielsen said during a Thursday conference call to announce second quarter results.

Potts declined to provide additional details about the location or facility but did say it would employ about 70 people.

Potts said more information about a location would be announced during the third quarter of the fiscal year.

When the company reported results from the first fiscal quarter of 2015 in December, Potts said the company would investigate opening another plant outside of Forest City.

The company will also make changes to improve recruitment and retention of employees, Potts said Thursday. Potts would not release the details on those changes but said they would make the company even more competitive in the North Iowa labor market.

The company had hoped it would return to employment levels it had prior to the recession of 2008, Potts said.

That hasn't happened.

"We are only at 70 percent (employee level) where we were at prior to 2008 in Forest City," Potts said.

The company grew into its more than 2,000 employees gradually before 2008. It grew more quickly in the past three years, Potts said, which made it more challenging to fill open positions.

The motor home manufacturer posted a 2.5 percent increase in revenue for the quarter that ended on Feb. 28. The company has $234.5 million in revenue compared to $228.8 million in the same quarter of fiscal year 2014. Operating income decreased from $14 million last year to $11 million while net income decreased at $8.1 million from $9.6 million.

Labor constraints negatively impacted the second quarter. Potts and Nielsen said the steps the company is taking to address those constraints will have a positive impact on finances in the future.

The addition of another plant would be the second in less than two years. Winnebago opened a manufacturing facility in Lake Mills in 2013. The company manufactures Class B motor homes at that plant.

In a different facility change, Winnebago will buy the towables plant it leases in Middlebury, Indiana, for about $5.4 million, Nielsen said. 

Rae Yost is editor of the Forest City Summit and Britt News Tribune, also Lee Enterprises newspapers.


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