October '17

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24 • RV PRO • October 2017 rv-pro.com R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S This extra effort is part of what has helped set Grand Design apart from the rest of the industry since its inception, according to Clark. "What we hear from our dealers is that our units come in cleaner and they have less issues with a Grand Design product than they do with other products on their lot," he says. Grand Design/ Winnebago considered the tight labor market in northern Indiana before opting for expansion in Middlebury. Clark notes that, while other manufacturers struggle to attract workers amidst the local area's low unemployment rate, Grand Design continues to have a waiting list of employees ready and willing to work for the company. The two new buildings, as are all the Grand Design facilities, will be leased (from Three Oaks Corp.) and their activation will be staggered. Clark adds, "The master plan is to ultimately build out the entire Middlebury campus." Acquisition Era In answer to a question about acquisitions during his June 17 conference call, Winnebago CEO Michael Happe acknowl- edged he needed to choose his words wisely. "With the Grand Design acquisition, we were comfortable with making an RV play to give us a fighting chance on the towable segment," he said. Even with the Grand Design purchase, Win- nebago still owns just a 5 percent share of the retail towable market. Happe said there are few private manufacturers left, and he wouldn't tip his hand which ones Winnebago would be interested in buying. Whatever Winnebago would buy would have to fit into the company's plan to become a full-line RV manufacturer, he said. However, Grand Design's success has whetted the Winnebago appetite to go forward on its business plan to diversify both inside and outside of the RV industry. Happe reported during the con- ference call that Winnebago continues to explore other acqui- sitions in the outdoor lifestyle sector. He was not more specific. Meanwhile, Winnebago has buildings in Oregon that are "not as full or busy as they should be and acres of grass" that could be utilized by other divisions, so moving some Grand Design production out there is a possibility, he suggested. Adds Clark, "If and when it makes sense to move out West, we know how to do it." Integrating Grand Design & Winnebago The integration of Grand Design RV into the Winnebago family has been a smooth one, Clark says, as the foundation was laid well before the acquisition announcement. "We (Clark and fellow Grand Design founders Ron and Bill Fenech) made an obligation to Winnebago during the due diligence process and we intend to keep all promises, and not just meet the expectations that were set, but exceed expecta- tions," he says. "I feel the Grand Design team has done that." Congresswoman Walorski is pictured with Grand Design workers attending the groundbreaking ceremony. Clark estimates the new facilities will result in the hiring of between 350 and 400 employees.

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