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Iowa governor, Polaris CEO talk continued growth in Spirit Lake

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gov. Terry Branstad gets on an Indian motorcycle for a photo opportunity during a visit to the Polaris factory Tuesday afternoon. Victory and Indian motorcycle brands are produced at the Spirit Lake location.
Skid loaders continued to pass by and assembly line employees continued work as Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and a delegation of local leaders were taken on a tour of the 565,000-square-foot Polaris manufacturing facility in Spirit Lake.

They saw an assembly line that is continually changing.

In April 2011, the company announced its acquisition of the 110-year-old Indian motorcycle line. Indian motorcycle operations were moved from King's Mountain, N.C. to Spirit Lake. Six days later, Polaris officials announced plans to acquire Global Electric Motorcars, or GEMs from a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chrysler. The electric-powered vehicle line was moved from Fargo, N.D. to Spirit Lake.

Polaris CEO Scott Wine shows Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds a Victory motorcycle produced at the company's Spirit Lake location. The state leaders went on a tour of the Polaris plant during their visit to northwest Iowa.
"Just keep buying those companies and moving them here," Branstad told company CEO Scott Wine during a presentation before Tuesday's tour of the plant.

Wine said the company had more than $2 billion in sales in 2011 and plans to exceed $3 billion in sales in 2012. The sales include a growing military business for the company. Side-by-side off road vehicle sales have been the company's bread and butter over the past five years.

"This is the kind of thing we want to see more of in Iowa, so we're really proud of this company and we're very appreciative that Polaris has shown this kind of confidence in Spirit Lake," Branstad said at the end of the Polaris tour. "We want them to continue to grow, so I asked them the kinds of things we can do as a state, in terms of supporting and encouraging them --eliminating some of the barriers and maybe helping them get people with some of the skills they need."

The governor said he wants to make sure Iowa has a "workforce of the future" through science, technology, engineering and math education "so that companies like Polaris will have the confidence to continue to grow and bring more businesses and more lines of products here."

"The good thing we have going for us in Iowa is the people -- the work ethic," Branstad said. "They talk very highly of the fact that they were able to get a really good workforce and these people are very adaptable. You can see, when you go down that (assembly) line that every product's a different color and maybe a different model -- one after another. The efficiencies and adaptability we have in Iowa is something we can be very proud of. That's a great thing to market and sell to other companies."

Polaris employs just under 700 employees in Spirit Lake, according to plant director Brian Hines. Wine came down from the company's Medina headquarters in suburban Minneapolis.

"We had a great day with the governor," the CEO said. "It was nice of the governor and lieutenant governor to come in. Clearly, throughout the day, we saw that they have a passion for business just like we do. They recognize the importance of free-market jobs. They're very supportive of the types of education and advancements that we need for technical-skilled jobs: welders, painters and technicians. I think we have a shared vision of what we can do here in Spirit Lake."

Wine said he was very encouraged about growth prospects in Dickinson County.

"We've had 21 percent employment growth here over the last five years, so we've brought a lot in," Wine said. "With the recent addition of the GEM motorcar business here -- as well as Indian motorcycles, which is really a big project we've been working on for some time now. Next year, about this time, we'll do the official Polaris re-launch of the iconic Indian brand. That's really exciting. But the Ranger product line -- our side-by-sides -- are doing wonderful and the Victory motorcycle business continues to grow. The Bobcat products we produce here have been very, very successful, so we're very encouraged."

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Saw the gov on national tv interviews a few times, embarrassing the heck out of himself and the state. Didn't realize what a whack job he is. Is he trying to out King, Steve King, or what?

-- Posted by helped_myself on Fri, Aug 24, 2012, at 10:18 AM

I am just curious why there are "skid loaders" in the Polaris plant LOL

-- Posted by deweyh on Fri, Aug 24, 2012, at 11:55 AM

deweyh--to haul heavy things from one place to another DUH!!!

-- Posted by iowagirl on Fri, Feb 1, 2013, at 8:18 PM

iowagirl--I have not been in Polaris so I cannot comment with a definitively positive response but most factories rely on fork lifts to "haul heavy things from one place to another" DUH!!! :D

-- Posted by deweyh on Mon, Feb 4, 2013, at 5:04 PM

deweyh not sure why you are commenting towards iowagirl the way you are since you asked the question but most skid loaders have fork attachments so they can operate similar to a forklift but with out the restriction to horizontal or vertical lifting.

-- Posted by joev on Thu, Feb 7, 2013, at 1:23 PM

I commented towards her that way to return the favor. The first comment is referred to as "sarcasm" thus the "LOL". And I still do not think they are using skid loaders to move product around Polaris. They are a factory as such they use fork lifts. But as I stated before I am going off of how most factories perform this function. As I have never been in Polaris I cannot comment with a definite statement on this. And thank you for the enlightenment on the complex inner workings of the skid loader. Although I have never seen a fork lift that had restriction to horizontal or vertical lifting.

-- Posted by deweyh on Thu, Feb 7, 2013, at 6:40 PM

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