The C.E.O. of Winnebago Industries says his company is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Financial data released today shows fourth-quarter losses for the Forest City-based company widened, but C.E.O. Bob Olson says the company reached a turning point this week on the factory floor.
“We are running all three lines at the same time and that hasn’t been the case since August of 2008,” Olson says, “so this is really a happy week for us.” Ten motor home companies have close for good due to the recession, while three other companies have either been sold to new owners or are in the process of being restructured or sold. Olson says there are several factors that helped his company weather this recession.
“I think that the solid foundation that this company was built on with the fact that we had no debt. We’ve got money in the bank. We’ve got employees that are second to none — employees that have really sacrificed over the past 24 months has kept us strong and we didn’t end up with the same fate that a lot of our competition did,” Olson says.
“So I think it really speaks volumes for the culture at Winnebago, and, you know, we had to do a lot of things that we really didn’t like to do, but the result was we’re still here.” The company reports its backlog of orders for new motor homes climbed 58 percent during the quarter, suggesting a recovery may be beginning. About 1,700 people are employed at Winnebago and Olson says with demand rising, the firm hired 130 employees in the past seven weeks. The value of Winnebago stock went up on that news.
Contributed by Bob Fisher,KRIB, Mason City