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Wenonah Canoe has announced that the company will be building a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Riverbend Industrial Park of Winona, Minn. The new plant is slated to be up and running by the fourth quarter of this year, at which time Wenonah will be closing the company’s Victoria, British Columbia, facility.
Rich Enochs, president of Wenonah, contacted SNEWSÂ® shortly after the announcement was made to the Victoria-based staff on Wednesday, April 28, and told us the company needed to make the nearly $2 million commitment to build a new facility and close down Canada simply because production efficiency demanded it.
“We’ve had a nicely growing kayak business since we acquired Current Designs five years ago, but it has gotten to the point where we are moving 70 percent of the boats from Victoria to Winona for redistribution,” Enoch said. “We have been shipping boats twice, handling them twice, and as a result, needing twice the number of staff.
“We ship from Winona because we deliver all of our boats on open trailers to our dealers, so we can combine canoes and kayaks in one lot — it is one of the big advantages we have and one our dealers appreciate,” Enoch added.
The Victoria facility employs approximately 70 people, a few of whom will be offered jobs in Winona, though Enoch told us he doubts many folks will want to move.
“We’ve offered our Victoria-based crew opportunities at headquarters before, but if you’ve ever been to Victoria, you’d soon realize why no one has taken us up on offers — it is an incredibly beautiful city and location,” Enoch said.
Wenonah expects to add 50 new employees to the payroll at the new facility when it is completed.
Enoch told us that the new plant will be dedicated to the molding and finishing of the Current Designs line of kayaks.
No changes will be made to Wenonah’s current 65,000-square-foot headquarters which houses warehousing, canoe production and administrative offices.
The company, which ships approximately 1,300 boats (kayaks and canoes) each month, anticipated that once the new facility is up and running, it could see up to 1,400 more boats shipped each month if demand warrants it.
Wenonah currently delivers boats to about 400 dealers in the United States. Company owner and founder Mike Cichanowski told us at a recent trade show that his business is mostly U.S. driven with just under 5 percent of the company’s overall business occurring in Europe and slightly over 10 percent in Canada.
Despite the loss of the manufacturing facility in Canada, Wenonah will maintain a Canadian-based warehouse, a Canadian-based sales manager, and establish a system set up to focus on the company’s Canadian dealers, Enoch told us.
SNEWSÂ® View: Not surprisingly, Wenonah has been able to take advantage of Minnesota’s economic development program designed to stimulate companies to expand business. Working with the city of Winona, the Winona Port Authority, the state (which approved a transfer of specially designated land from the adjacent township of Montgomery to Winona), and the local community banks and merchants, Wenonah doubtless secured a sweet deal. The communities benefited as well since there will be 50 more folks employed and spending money in Winona now — not to mention the added benefit of jobs generated during construction. Montgomery made out well too, since a broadband company which is part of the convoluted deal has agreed, we’ve been told, to provide broadband service to the community of 3,000. While no one likes to see anybody lose a job, and we do feel for the folks in Victoria, this was a smart move by Wenonah and will allow the company to better manage its growth while managing production and shipping efficiency. It’s nice to see a 30-year-old veteran thinking so progressively.