Week of April 22, 2002
  Blockbuster Deal of the Week
   from Site Selection's exclusive New Plant database
Minnie Winnie
Winnebago Industries' new 300-employee plant in Charles City will assemble either the company's Class A or Class C line. The Class C is the company's "mini" line, which includes the Minnie Winnie model pictured.
Northern Iowa Bags Winnebago's 300-Employee Plant
Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing

CHARLES CITY, Iowa — In the largest expansion project in its 44-year corporate history, Winnebago Industries is motoring in to Charles City, Iowa, to build a 300-employee, 204,000-sq.-ft. (18,360-sq.-m.) assembly plant. At full capacity, the new US$12.5-million facility in northern Iowa will alone increase Winnebago's annual production of motor homes by some 30 percent.
        Charles City's selection ends the company's U.S. Midwest site search. That search began in February, the same month in which Statistical Surveys named Winnebago as 2001's top selling U.S. manufacturer of motor homes.
        "We had a tremendous response to our search for this new site, with nearly 100 proposals for us to locate within various communities throughout the Midwest, primarily in Iowa and Minnesota," said Winnebago Chairman, CEO and President Bruce Hertzke. "We were extremely flattered to be recognized as a preferred employer and wish to thank all of these fine communities for their hard work and interest in our site planning."

'Added Utilization' of Existing Facilities

Among those interested hard workers was Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who personally lobbied to land the assembly plant.
        In the end, though, the site search team parked Winnebago's project on some very familiar turf. The company had recently located two component manufacturing plants in Charles City. One of those operations opened in 1999, the other last year.
Forest City, Ill.
Winnebago's operations at its headquarters base in
Forest City, Ill., include the world's largest motor home manufacturing facility (pictured), located on a 60-acre
(24-hectare) site.

        "Charles City has been an excellent partner for Winnebago Industries. We couldn't be more pleased with the success of our two current facilities, our excellent work force and the great relationship we have with the Charles City community," said Hertzke.
        Winnebago also liked the area's labor availability, company officials said. Floyd County recorded a 7.5 percent unemployment rate - third highest in the state - in February (the latest month for which statistics are available). Neighboring counties' rates are only slightly lower.
        "We will also recognize some benefits from the added utilization of our other Charles City facilities nearby," Hertzke added in explaining Winnebago's choice.
        The new plant will be located in Southwest Development Park on a 25-acre (10-hectare) site. That tract lies adjacent to Winnebago's two existing component plants. With the three operations' close configuration, components will travel only a matter of feet before becoming part of the final assembly process.

Avenue of the Saints
Road improvements along "the Avenue of the Saints" helped pave Winnebago's way to Charles City.
'Avenue of the Saints'
Provides Smooth Ride Home

Another major location plus, Hertzke added, was the area's "proven transportation network for access to and from our other Iowa facilities."
        The new assembly operation will lie alongside what's been dubbed "the Avenue of the Saints" - a moniker that reflects the route's connecting linkage between St. Louis and St. Paul. Construction work on the Avenue of the Saints has widened U.S. Highways 18 and 218. Significantly, those roads connect Charles City with Forest City, the Iowa town some 66 miles (106 km.) away that's home to Winnebago's headquarters.
        The Charles City deal is not quite done, though. "The site selection is contingent upon final approval of grants and other incentives from the community, county and state," Winnebago officials noted. Neither government officials nor Winnebago officials would comment on pending incentives for the project.
        Plant construction will begin after the incentives have been approved, Winnebago said. The company expects the facility to be complete in late 2002 or early 2003.
        The operation will assemble 3,000 to 4,000 motor homes a year when it reaches full capacity. Winnebago will make either its Class A or Class C line at the Charles City plant, company officials said.

Editor's note: Watch for more on Iowa in the state's spotlight section
in the upcoming July issue of
Site Selection.

bd0422bbd0422b ©2002 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.