Made in the Midwest: Winnebago Recovering from Recession

Posted at: 11/08/2012 4:11 AM
Updated at: 11/08/2012 7:35 AM
By: Ellery McCardle

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- They're called recreational vehicles or homes on wheels, allowing families to explore all corners of the country.

But with more than 50 years of RV building experience, Winnebago Industries is recovering from its toughest challenge yet, the recession.

From hundreds of electrical wires to huge wheels there is nothing simple about a Winnebago.

Inside the plant, models large and super-sized are built. Workers are busy installing and inspecting each motor home. But in recent years, it hasn't been this busy, all because of the recession.

"It was the worst we'd ever seen...we've spent the last four years recovering from that," said Randy Potts, president/CEO of Winnebago Industries.

During the worst of it, thousands of employees were laid off. Including Stephen Thomas.

"We go in cycles where you wonder what next week is going to bring," said Thomas.

Over time, as the economy slowly grew and people started taking more vacations, the assembly line started moving quicker and people were re-hired, including Thomas, whose an electrical inspector.

"They've taken good care of me, there's good benefits," said Thomas.

Business is picking up, right now upwards of 130 RV's are produced each week. Through it all, the company survived.

Potts credits the men and women on the assembly line, saying he's thankful they stuck with the company.

"I think it speaks to the work ethic and value of Midwestern people," said Potts.

The focus now is adding more work, creating more homes on wheels.

"We're not going to wait for the market to grow back to what it was," said Potts.

One by one more Winnebagos are on the track almost ready for the next family in line.

The company's revenues were released last month show an increase of 17%, compared to last year.

The company is hiring, for more information, head to their website http://www.winnebagoind.com/company/career/