Polaris Industries Inc. on Friday formally announced plans to more than double its product development center in Wyoming, Minn., while adding another 300 workers to the facility over three years.
The company will spend $20 million to build a 144,000 square-foot addition to its existing facility, which sits on 620 acres 30 miles north of Minneapolis.
Bennett Morgan, president and chief operating officer of the $3 billion manufacturer of ATVs, snowmobiles, motorcycles and utility vehicles, said he already is hiring engineers for the expansion. When the project is complete, Polaris expects to transfer about 100 employees into the space.
"We are hiring right now and temporarily" placing the workers in Osceola, Wis., the headquarters in Medina and the existing structure in Wyoming, Morgan said.
About 350 ATV and motorcycle designers, engineers, mechanics, calibration experts and quality technicians already work in the existing building, which opened in 2005 with the help of the state's JOBZ tax incentive program.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday before cheering employees, executives, city officials and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Chip Cravaack. Ryan Companies, the contractor for the project, will begin construction next week, with completion expected by August.
Wyoming Mayor Eric Peterson said he is excited about Polaris' decision to expand. With the influx of another 300 workers, the town has a chance to woo other businesses such as hotels and restaurants.
When Polaris first opened the R&D center in 2005, everyone was convinced that Polaris would move on as soon as the JOBZ tax incentives expired in 2014, Peterson said. "But that is not the case. They are doubling," Peterson said.
CEO Scott Wine said the research center will be a boon to Polaris, which prides itself as an "innovator" cranking out new models of ATVs, military vehicles, motorcycles and off-road vehicles with two-, four- or six-seat options.
R&D consumes about 4 percent of company sales. That percentage has remained steady even as Polaris nearly doubled sales in five years. About 71 percent of all revenues now comes from products introduced in the last three years, Wine said.
The Wyoming research center frequently serves as an innovation showplace for customers, dealers and shareholders who come in to see, test or collaborate on new engine and product designs, Wine said. The expansion will further spotlight that role, he said.
The Wyoming project is the latest in a series of building projects for the Medina-based company. Polaris recently added 33,000 square feet to its motorcycle and electric vehicle plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Still other additions are being considered for that plant.
Wine said he expects 2012 sales to grow 14 to 17 percent from 2011's $2.7 billion. Earnings are expected to grow at least 26 percent.
Dee DePass 612-673-7725