Iowa towns are lining up trying to win the competition for the new Winnebago Industries Inc. plant that the Forest City, Iowa-based firm plans to open this year, according to the Waterloo (Iowa) Courier.
Among the Iowa communities hoping to lure the new Winnebago motorhome plant are Nashua, New Hampton, Waverly, Fort Dodge and Waterloo. The states surrounding Iowa also are competing for the new facility, which would create 300 new jobs, the Courier reported.
Winnebago wants a 25-acre site in an industrial park that has all necessary infrastructure in place, according to the newspaper.
Earlier this year, Winnebago Chairman, President and CEO Bruce Hertzke said he wants construction of the new plant to be begin this spring and for the motorhome and cabinet assembly operation to be completed by the fall.
Winnebago’s goal is to expand its output capacity 30%, which is equivalent to 3,000 to 4,000 more motorhomes per year, said Sheila Davis, spokeswoman for the company.
“We would like to make a decision fairly soon so we can start building,” Davis added.
Expanding output from Winnebago’s complex in Forest City, located about 20 miles south of the Minnesota border, is not an option because of the small population base from which to draw additional workers, Davis said. That was why, the last time Winnebago expanded, during 2000, it built new motorhome and cabinet assembly plants in Charles City, Iowa, which is about 60 miles east of Forest City. Charles City is far enough away from Forest City to tap into a different labor market.
The executive director of the Charles City Area Economic Development Corp. (EDC) believes Charles City can accommodate more Winnebago manufacturing operations.
“We are extremely pleased with Winnebago as an employer and corporate citizen,” said Jim Fox executive director of the Charles City EDC. “Given the labor availability in this part of the state, we believe we can” accommodate Winnebago’s need for 300 more workers.
But New Hampton also wants the new Winnebago plant, said Herman Meyer, director of that community’s EDC. “Everyone is vying for a great company like that,” Meyer said.
And Waverly also would love to have Winnebago locate operations in its community, said Mayor Ike Ackerman. “Winnebago is a national company and their plant would add to our diversified mix of industries,” he said.
The availability of skilled labor will be crucial to Winnebago’s decision, said Davis, the company spokeswoman.