> SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE! 

Winnebago Industries Inc. is starting to feel the grip of the national recession loosen, but company leaders are remaining cautious.

Winnebago President and CEO Bob Olson says the company has seen the bottom of the recession, according to KIMT-TV, Mason City, Iowa.

Now he wants to make sure the company doesn’t get ahead of itself to get out of financial trouble.

Winnebago hired 350 people over the last several months. Christina Grothe is happy to be back at work after getting laid off in December of 2008.

“It was getting a little hairy there. It was getting closer to my six months, because at six months, if we got rehired we had to start over from the very beginning,” Grothe explained.

She got rehired after five months, and her seniority and benefits with the company continued.

“I knew that we would pick back up. I mean we always have when we got a little slow, I’d never seen it that slow,” she said.

Olson said he’s encouraged the company’s orders are up 350%, but he knows it will take time before Winnebago is profitable again.

“We have to be realistic. We have to keep everything in perspective: we got ourselves into a really deep hole and to dig out of that thing is going to take a while,” he said.

Olson says while dealers are buying more RVs to fill their inventory, consumers need to start buying more motorhomes to continue Winnebago’s recovery.

“One of the bigger shows of the year is in Tampa, Fla., this week so we’ll get a pretty good indicator on how that’s gonna go. If traffic’s good there and then we start seeing some retail activity, we’re gonna be optimistic,” he said.

Olson says the recession is also affecting the company in other ways. Next week the company is shutting down this production line because of supply shortages.

“This supplier who provides us with our heating and air conditioning systems went bankrupt; they did not make it through this very tough recession,” he said.

While Olson remains cautious, Grothe will enjoy the job she loves.

“I take pride in what I do, and I love the people. It’s a different kind of atmosphere than say an office or something,” she said.

Olson said the company is looking to diversify its operations. He says its plants in Forest City and Charles City have many capabilities. The company is just waiting for something to come along so it can take advantage of those capabilities.

The towable segment of the RV industry is fairing slightly better than motorhomes. Olson says his company’s main focus will remain on RVs, but tWinnebago could consider getting into the towable market.