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Iowa History Daily: January 16 - Winnebago Industries

Iowa History Daily: On January 16, 1958, headlines in Forest City eagerly anticipated a new venture building travel trailers in the North Iowa town. Two weeks later, production started at a company serving as the forerunner to the iconic American motorhome manufacturer Winnebago Industries.

During the mid-1950s, Forest City Development Incorporated brought the community together to try and find a way to create jobs and economic opportunity in the small town. Local businessman John K. Hanson spearheaded a group of community leaders in convincing a California firm, Modernistic Industries, to open a travel trailer factory in a bid to revive the local economy. Many locals bought stock in the venture, and at the end of January 1958 production started.

The operation struggled at the start, eventually allowing Hanson to consolidate ownership and take charge. Hanson vertically integrated the company, streamlined processes, and started making most components in house. Renaming the company Winnebago Industries in 1960, a variety of innovations helped the company rise to the top of the recreational vehicle industry.

Over the late-20th century the company grew to lead the RV industry. Despite moving corporate headquarters to Minnesota during 2021, the company’s main manufacturing facility continues to represent one of the largest employers in North Iowa. The Hanson family legacy continues in the area, as well, with the Hanson Foundation funding vital projects in Forest City and beyond. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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