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Old 07-31-2009, 03:22 PM   #1
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GNR Boost Spirits of Winnebago CEO

Owners rally boosts spirts of Winnebago Industries' CEO

Greg Gerber posted on July 31, 2009 02:20

FOREST CITY, Iowa -- When Winnebago Industries' top executive is on the WIT Grand National Rally grounds this week, the smile never leaves Bob Olson's face.

“Is this great or what? To see more than 1,200 coaches on the grounds, to see this many people say the heck with the economy, we're not going to give up this lifestyle,” the Forest City-based RV manufacturer's chairman, CEO and president said. “In my mind, it shows what I've been saying all along and that is we have a bright future.”

More than 1,200 motorhomes are parked on the grounds for the six-day rally that came to an end on Friday. WIT Club General Manager Doug Formanek said about 2,600 people attended the rally, and if ever attendees really grabbed onto a rally theme, it was this year when attendees celebrated “Witstock” in honor of the 40th anniversary of the first rally.

Tie-dyed shirts were the rage, as are motorhomes decorated with flowers and other reminders of the 1969 rock festival called Woodstock. As they took part in Tuesday evening's “state row party,” they wore their tied-dye shirts adorned with a peace sign, ala 1969, although Winnebago's top man, who started working at the company's factory in 1969, did say the company's business casual attire probably will never quite get to tie-dye.

“I don't think we'll have tie-dye Friday,” he said with a laugh, “but it's funny, because this is my era. I had the long hair and everything back then.”

As he talked, it was easy to tell he was enjoying the moment; after all, the rally provided a welcome respite from a year that has been brutal on the RV industry. Winnebago has lost $41.3 million in its last four quarters of business, but Olson has often pointed out that his company is doing better at weathering the recession than its competitors.

“And when you come out here and see the people here, see the fun they're having,” Olson said, “you know that when this turns around, we're going to come back right along with them.”

To read the complete report in the Forest City Summit, click here.
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