MIDDLEBURY — Winnebago Industries broke ground on a new expansion project at its towable campus Thursday afternoon.
The project will roughly double the existing facility, adding about 200,000 square feet of space adjacent to the existing Middlebury production site at 11333 C.R. 2. According to company information, the expansion is expected to cost more than $12 million, creating a greater production capacity for the brand's fastest-growing division.
"These facilities here, as much as we like them, they were never really designed for the volume that we are starting to turn out at this facility and where we're planning to go with it," said Scott Degnan, vice president and general manager of Winnebago Towables. "So they have served us well. We'll continue to produce out of these facilities, but we had to expand to keep up with our volume."
Planned additions include two new buildings — a new manufacturing plant and a dedicated panel lamination building, expected to be completed in late 2018, according to provided company information.
In addressing a crowd of Winnebago employees, dignitaries and industry leaders, Degnan said the towable brand is "up a little over 50 percent in unit volume and almost 40 percent in market shares. So we've really come a long way."
Among the event's guests was Rep. Jackie Walorski, 2nd District, who, along with Sen. Joe Donnelly, was present earlier in the day at the sixth annual RV Industry Power Breakfast. Donnelly was absent from the Middlebury event, with State Director Hodge Patel speaking on the senator's behalf.
"I can't tell you how excited and proud I am," Walorski said. "I'm grateful to be a member of Congress. I'm even more grateful to sit on the Ways and Means Committee and be able to continue to fight for this industry."
The congresswoman congratulated the company on its progress, relaying a story of a Virginia man who migrated to Elkhart County for work in the RV industry, a move which allegedly doubled his income and served as Walorski's example for what she said is a quality of life currently attainable in Elkhart County.
"And that's the beauty of what you all do and what you create and what you produce," she said. "It is really, right now, the heartthrob of America, looking at all of you and knowing that we can have a successful, bright future because of expansion, because of investment and because nobody does this better.
"And I hope that we are always maintaining and will always be the RV capital of the world. So God bless you guys as you continue to move through this thing and produce. I'm with you. If you ever any help, I'm one phone call away. Give me a shoutout."
Following the roughly 15 minutes of speaking, Walorski, Patel, Elkhart County Council member Dave Hess, Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder, Winnebago executives and others made their way to site for ceremonial photos.
Geoff Lesar can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 307.