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.
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."