Branstad Lauds Growth At Polaris Plant In Spirit Lake, Iowa

August 2012 Powersport News

By Russ Oechslin Journal Correspondent

Sioux City Journal

Spirit Lake, Iowa - The motorcycles, electric motorcars, all-terrain vehicles and other heavy sports equipment coming off the assembly line at the Polaris Industries plant here got Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's stamp of approval Tuesday.

When Polaris opened in Spirit Lake 18 years ago, personal watercraft were its only product.

Those "were a lot of fun to ride. But we never made any money on them," CEO Scott Wine told Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and a host of local officials during a tour of the facility that employs about 700.

Today, Polaris sees 15 vehicles an hour cross the end of the assembly line, and Branstad noted the innovative strides the company has made since his last visit.

"I'm excited at hearing them purchasing companies like Indian Motorcycles and GEM electric cars and bringing them to Iowa," he said. "That's really good. And I think that says something about the confidence they have in Iowa and in Spirit Lake."

Indian was formerly based in North Carolina and GEM operated in Fargo, N.D.

Pictures on the walls show Branstad was here as governor when the plant opened in 1994. Reynolds said the pictures show her boss "has been everywhere. We see pictures of him every place we go."

Before Tuesday's tour, when the governor heard Wine say Polaris and other similar companies are having problems hiring skilled labor-especially welders-he offered to see if the company would benefit from his Skilled Iowa Initiative, which would help train potential employees.

"It's a great initiative," Reynolds said, "because it works with Workforce Development and the individual businesses, and it gives the unemployed individual an opportunity to intern for eight weeks" without giving up unemployment benefits.

Welding department manager Jim Bruha said he is working with teachers at Okoboji High School to help train assembly workers who want to learn welding, which pays more. 

Last year Polaris Industries had sales of about $2 billion. Just a month ago, the company reported record second quarter sales, with earnings per share increasing 44 percent, to 98 cents, on sales growth of 24 percent.

With the new Indian and GEM offerings and the introduction of a new line of recreational vehicles in Stugis, S.D., last week, Wine said he expects to top $3 billion in sales this year.

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