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Chad Reece Celebrates Career Milestone At Winnebago Industries

Posted May 26, 2023 at 9:35 am

Chad Reece Celebrates Career Milestone At Winnebago Industries

Chad Reece has never been far from the RV industry. He grew up in a small village near Forest City, IA, not far from Winnebago Industries. Although the RV industry wasn’t initially on Chad’s radar—he’d originally planned to be a teacher—he joined Winnebago Industries after graduating in 1987 from Northwest Missouri State University.

“As it happened, I graduated in December,” he explained. “It was a strange time to graduate back then, but it’s not uncommon now. I knew I needed a job so I came to Winnebago Industries. I was able to get my foot in the door with the intention that I would stay a few months. Well, the company has a rich tradition of hiring from within and promoting employees, and I was a beneficiary of that.”

Chad has now been with Winnebago Industries for 35 years, currently serving as their Vice President of Government and Industry Relations. Since starting at the company in February 1988, he has held several positions. “I spent nine years in service and service training. That was a formative time for me in terms of understanding how the company operates, our networking, and our consumer interactions,” Chad recalled.

“That allowed me to step into a marketing role, where I served as a marketing manager for almost ten years and then I transitioned into a director role. With that came many additional responsibilities, working alongside industry partners and associations in the areas of PR, media and government outreach. So, while I’ve been working with government relations for quite some time, my official role change occurred last year. This position is a great opportunity for me personally, and I’m happy we’re able to grow this area for our company.”

Along with learning about the industry’s many facets over the course of his three-decade career, Chad has also found a strong professional network within Winnebago Industries and the RV Industry Association. “I’ve found so many great opportunities, and a key part of that was interaction inside the industry,” he said. “I’m so fortunate to have been involved with the RV Industry Association since the mid-nineties. I was still fairly new to Winnebago Industries when I first engaged with the Association, and I was struck by how everybody participated in the common goal of advancing the good of the industry.”

“I found great mentorship among Winnebago Industries and other RV Industry Association members and to this day I still find great value in those relationships,” he says. “And we’re continuing to develop new relationships as new people onboard into the organization, from both a staff and Association member perspective. It’s been a good experience for me.”

“I enjoy when the industry gets together and the resulting friendships that develop, driven in great part by the RV Industry Association’s ability to bring the industry together— vendors, manufacturers, and supporters, such as campgrounds. The list of people we interact with through the Association is just incredible and I think it strengthens our industry. I’m appreciative of that.”

Within his role as Vice President of Government and Industry Relations, Chad places a particular emphasis on the engagement that Winnebago Industries’ government relations department has seen at local, state, and national levels. “We find great value and importance in strengthening those bonds and make sure we’re representing in the appropriate ways at each of those levels. It’s an extension of the groundwork myself and others have laid previously, which allows us to build  value for the company as we move forward which  is pretty exciting.”

When considering what’s on the horizon for Winnebago Industries, Chad is optimistic. “As a 35-year veteran of the company, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the company from a lot of different lenses over time,” he explains. “When our current CEO, Mike Happe, came on board there was a company-wide transition to view ourselves in a different light. We gave ourselves permission to be an outdoor lifestyle company. There was nothing wrong with being a motorhome company—that’s how we’d previously identified— but our new perspective allowed for a different mindset that’s permitted us to do wonderful and exciting things. The beauty of it is we’re still at the forefront of that with plenty of runway ahead of us.”

“As I look at the changes that have happened, and the way the product is perceived by consumers— including some of the newer consumers driven by Go RVing and other efforts— the cooperation between industry players is driving some pretty exciting things.”

“We’ve also seen a drive from consumers to better enjoy the outdoors and realize that is a vital part of our lifestyle that allows us to be the best we can be. That seems to have taken strong root through the pandemic— I think it emphasized a reset of the importance of taking care of ourselves and that human need to interact and be out and active. All of those things combined, along with the excitement of the industry and the excitement we see in our company, keeps me going and I love it. I’m looking forward to the future.”

Along with his responsibilities at Winnebago Industries, Chad Reece has also had a lengthy involvement with the RV Industry Association, which began in 1995. “I started in the Association’s education committee. I was able to step in and I learned so much. I found a great atmosphere at the committee level, and I was fortunate enough to be able participate.”

Chad has also served on the Association’s Committee of Excellence and the Awards Committee. In addition, he has been involved with the Go RVing Coalition for twenty-five years. “I think there’s a strong correlation between the growth we’ve experienced as an industry and the work that has happened and continues to happen at Go RVing. Their growth and evolution have been very fun to watch, from just existing as an idea to what it is today.”

Along with being on a number of Association committees, Chad has also served on the Association’s Board of Directors. “I also felt very fortunate I was able to serve at the Board level and it was a tremendous opportunity for me. I appreciated participating there and learning the RV Industry Association’s entire scope.”

He currently leads the Association’s Public Relations Committee. “I’m happy to be a part of it! I think the RV Industry Association has done great work and the staff and membership are able to work together. I’m excited to be involved in that.”

Chad expresses an excitement about the range of opportunities offered by the RV industry and remains optimistic about its future. “Inside our industry there’s such a scope of opportunity and a range of skillsets and occupations you can enjoy. It’s a continual path for me of being able to do new and exciting things as I continue to grow and be mentored through the course of my career and I think that still holds true,” he says. “I’m very optimistic and enthusiastic about our industry and the companies that are in it. As long as our industry remains diligent and works hard, I think our future can be very, very bright.”

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