Winnebago Industries Inc. employs 3,200 people at its complex in Forest City, Iowa. But because only 5,000 people live in the northern Iowa community, Winnebago had to look outside of its hometown to expand.

The community selected for the first Winnebago assembly plant outside of Forest City was Charles City, Iowa, located 65 miles east of the company’s home base.

The new, 50,000-square-foot Charles City final assembly plant was dedicated Friday (Oct. 13).

Winnebago currently draws employees within a 60-mile radius of Forest City, and the new plant in Charles City will attract workers from further east, said Bruce Hertzke, chairman, president and CEO.

Two diesel pusher models, the Ultimate Advantage and Ultimate Freedom, are assembled in the new plant. The preparation of Freightliner and Spartan chassis also occurs in the new Charles City plant.

Assembly of Ultimate Advantage and Freedom models began during May but the chassis stretching operation did not move into the new facility until three weeks ago.

Currently, 57 people work at the new assembly plant building three units per week, Hertzke said. Winnebago’s goal is to increase output to six or seven units a week and employment to over 100 people by a year from now, Hertzke added.

The new assembly plant is in an industrial park across the street from a 50,000-square-foot Winnebago wood cabinet plant, where another 100 people are employed.

Once output at the Charles City assembly plant is doubled, Winnebago most likely will add more supply operations in Charles City, Hertzke added.

Separately, Winnebago announced it will pay a 10 cents a share cash dividend on Jan. 8 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 8.

The decision to pay the dividend reflects confidence in the company and the long-term strength of the RV industry.