Elma store expands to meet demand for domestic goods | WBFO

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Source: Elma store expands to meet demand for domestic goods | WBFO

While much has been made recently over the lack of American manufacturing, one local retail business is finding success selling goods entirely made in the United States. Elma’s Made in America Store is responding to demand by moving to a store that is three times larger than its original location.

The original Made in America Store in July, 2011. Its new location is only 600 yards away.
Credit Daniel Robison

The new store with 18,000 square feet in space is located just 600 yards away from the original location on Maple Street in Elma. Tour buses from as far as Wisconsin are scheduled to arrive for this Saturday’s grand opening.

Founder and CEO Mark Andol credits the community and his staff for the success. People are literally “buying in” to his store’s mission of helping out American business.

He calls it “the spider web effect” that helps out small “mom and pop” ventures around the United States.

“There’s probably 10 to 20 smaller companies associated with each product we sell. And we say consumers create jobs with every purchase. Vote with your dollars, so that’s what’s beautiful with our store,” Andol said.

The store features hundreds of products, though Andol points out the dearth of available electronics. It’s a statement about the state of American manufacturing. Andol also bemoans the “skills-trades loss” in the regional economy.

“I can’t find a welder for my General Welding and Fabricating (company) to save my life,” Andol said.

“We are not training and producing them so we have to have a culture change.


Does Free Trade Cost U.S. jobs? The Case Of Hersheys and NAFTA

There was a recent survey that asked the question: Does free trade create or cost US jobs? The response was surprising: 43% of those surveyed said that it created U.S. jobs while 43% said that it caused Americans to lose their jobs. I thought this question was already settled. We know that the Free Trade has lost US jobs, most of them well-paying. And this is the major reason why the United States middle-class working class has not received a raise in over 20 years.

So, why would 43% believe that Free-trade  created US jobs? For some of the population it is because they have no or little information about the problem. But it is, also, difficult to see the connection, because it is complicated. For instance, I could name hundreds of examples of companies eliminating  US jobs and relocating them to different countries, but people still can’t see the direct correlation to Free Trade.

I will make the case that Free Trade causes the loss of US jobs very simple. I will follow one Free-Trade rule and one US company to see the impact of US jobs. The Free-Trade rule is the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) which decreased import taxes between Canada and Mexico and the United States. NAFTA meant that goods coming from Mexico would be cheaper than they had been, and to take full advantage of this “loophole”, American companies started taking the traditional US jobs and moved them to other countries where the costs of doing business are lower.

The Free Trade Act

NAFTA became law on January 1, 1994. However, the elimination of tariffs was not complete until 10 years later which meant the following: THE LOSS OF US JOBS WOULD NOT BE DETECTED UNTIL AFTER 2004! (that is why you didn’t hear “the giant sucking sound” coming from Mexico right away.

The Company

The company that we are following is Hershey’s chocolate. In 1994, 100% of Hershey’s chocolate was made in USA or Canada. Once NAFTA went into effect in 2004, Hershey’s announced that it was cutting its US manufacturing chocolate to 80% by 2010 (1). This was followed by a slew of US chocolate plant closings: Reading, Pennsylvania(2) – loss of 160 jobs in 2007; Naugatuck, CT(3), loss of 150 jobs, closed 11/16/07; Oakdale, CA(4) , loss of 575 jobs, closed on 2/1/08; Smiths Falls Ontario, Canada(5), loss of 400 jobs (in a town of 9,000)  2008; Hershey, PA(6), the original 1903 East plant, loss of 600 jobs, closed 04/27/2012. And to add insult to injury, Hershey opened its brand new $800 Million plant in Monterrey, Mexico in 2009 with a workforce of 1300 employees(7).

The Original 1903 Hershey's East Plant being torn down on 11/05/2012

The Original 1903 Hershey’s East Plant being torn down on 11/05/2012

Does Hershey’s Still Make Chocolate in the USA?

Hershey’s does still make chocolate in the USA(8). Hershey’s did expand their West Plant in Hershey Pennsylvania in 2012 and still makes Hershey’s Kisses. The West Plant employs about 1,000 people. There are other Hershey’s chocolate owned plants across the United States although none of the products have the label “Hersheys”. The other factories: Ashland Oregon makes Scharffenberger Premium chocolate and Dagoba Organic  (purchased the company in 2005); Robinson Illinois makes Heath bars (purchased in 1986); Hazelton, PA makes Kitkat (contracted with Nestle), Cadbury (contracted with Kraft, 2010) and Cadbury Caramello; Stuart’s Draft, Virginia makes products with peanuts; Lancaster, Pennsylvania makes Twizzlers (purchased in 1977) and Memphis, Tennessee makes mints, licorice and Icebreakers (purchased in 2000 and 2011).

hershey bar

However, their main production plants are outside of the United States. The best known is Monterrey, Mexico. All the above US plant closing were done to move their production to Monterrey, Mexico to take advantage of the NAFTA rules. The Hershey CEO, Richard Lenny said in 2010, that the move to Mexico, would save the shareholders $190 million dollars(9). I had also heard that the Hershey’s CEO gets $4.7 million in salary although I can not substantiate that. Since that time, Hersheys has taken advantage of other Free Trade Rules (namely The World Trade Organization) and has expanded well abroad – China, Brazil, India and Malaysia).

Hershey’s Chocolate Manufacturing Plants Outside of the USA (alphabetic by country)

  1. Sao Paulo, Brazil
  2. Sao Rogue, Brazil
  3. Shanghai, China
  4. Yudond, China
  5. Zhoukou, China
  6. Inner Mongolia, China
  7. Mandideep Madhya Pradesh, India
  8. Juhor, Malaysia (2nd largest)
  9. El Salto, Mexico
  10. Monterrey, Mexico
Hershey's Monterrey Mexico Factory opened in 2009, 1300 employees

Hershey’s Monterrey Mexico Factory opened in 2009, 1300 employees

Can You Taste The Difference Between Mexican Made and US Made Hershey’s Chocolate?

There was a great blog entry that looked at exactly this subject. The blog is called the candyblog. What they did is they looked at some of the Mexican made Hershey’s chocolate: Milk Chocolate miniatures, Special Dark, Krackel, and Mr. Goodbar and compared them to the original American made. The result, not much difference. The reader’s comments, however, were pretty unanimous in condemning Hershey’s for outsourcing US jobs.

The Final Cost of Offshoring US jobs by Hersheys

We know that 1,500 manufacturing jobs in the United States were eliminated by Hersheys, because it is well documented. And Hershey’s did it simply to make more money, even though they knew it was creating a hardship to lots of small town workers. The number of American manufacturing jobs lost by offshoring of Hershey’s may seem small (especially if you are a Wall Street analyst), because it only looks at manufacturing jobs. It does not include associated jobs. Associated jobs are the ones directly related to the manufacturing like marketing, packaging, distribution, administrative, etc.

But, also indirectly- associated effects need to be considered.  These include other business’ loss of income (and other loss of jobs) that are directly related due to the loss of these manufacturing jobs. This would include just about everything in the neighborhood or town, especially in these small towns like Oakdale, CA loss of 575 jobs in a town of 15,000, or Smiths Town, Ontario, loss of 400 jobs in a town of 9,000. For these small towns, more than 40% of that town’s population is affected – this all creates problems with: real estate prices, auto sales, downtown businesses, bars, restaurants, insurance agents, grocery stores, home improvement, doctors, lawyers, schools, Little League, town income, etc.

Don’t forget that Free Trade has had much wider implications for the US economy in general. The below is just one of them – Trade deficit. For more  reasons, see my entry: Why Free Trade is Devastating to the USA?

US Trade Deficit After Free Trade Started

US Trade Deficit After Free Trade Started

Final Message

Not only are all these U.S. Hersheys’ manufacturing jobs and associated jobs gone forever, but all future expansion will be made outside of the country. A message for all the Free Trade economists, your formulas always forget to put in a variable – that there is a finite number of good paying jobs in the world (just like there is a finite amount of resources). This, in essence, means that any expansion outside of the United States comes at the expense of the United States. Buy American, support businesses that hire American workers.

Hersheys’ References

  1. FinanzNachrichten.de25.04.2007 Hershey to Close Plant in Conn.
  2. Lancaster Online April 24, 2007 Hershey to Close Reading Plant
  3. Newstimes.com April 24,2007 Hershey Co. to Close Peter Paul Plant in Naugatuck.
  4. San Diego Union Tribune.com July 13, 2008 Town Draws Candy Maker After Hershey Plant Closes.
  5. CBC News Ottawa Feb 22, 2007 Hershey Confirms Smiths Falls Plant will close.
  6. NPR.org Oct. 6, 2010 Original Hershey Chocolate Factory Set to Close.
  7. Pennlive.com April 30, 2009 Hershey Co. monitors Swine Flu’s impact on Mexico plant; declares products safe.
  8. The Hershey Company.com This is Hershey – Global Locations
  9. Truth or Fiction.com/hershey.

New Balance Bespoke Sneakers Made in USA

New Balance.com Made in USA

New Balance Shoes have a fantastic selection of high end, high quality sneakers. What? High end sneakers? Aren’t all sneakers made in China or Vietnam? I am serious. For the past couple of years, New Balance has been making a limited amount of high end sneakers in the United States. They have teamed up with the Chicago leather company called Horween.

These sneakers are head turning and sell out very quickly. A manager of a New Balance tells me that some Chinese citizens travel to the United States and buy tons of these New Balance sneakers and smuggle them back to China because: 1) they are gorgeous, 2) they are Made in The USA, which makes them a collectors item, and 3) they can sell them in China for twice the amount.

The price of these bespoke New Balance sneakers are quite expensive. But again, they are not your every-day-kick-around-sneakers. These are made to last a lifetime. So, treat them like the special jewels that they are.

Where to Find the Bespoke sneakers?

The best place to find the New Balance Bespoke sneakers can be found on the New Balance website. The problem with the New Balance website is that they do not adequately highlight the Bespoke or Retro Shoes. Also, it is very hard to find the “Bespoke Section” of shoes, because it does not exist. The New Balance website is set up more like a Shoe Mart and not a high end website that highlights the latest high end sneakers that will make your mouth drool.

There is a website that does do justice to the High End New Balance shoes. And it is called Leather Soul which is a seller of leather shoes with stores in Honolulu, Hawaii and Hollywood, California. Following their link will show you its entries on the New Balance Shoes over the past year.

Models of the Bespoke and Retro New Balance Sneakers

I have highlighted some of the nicer bespoken and retro New Balance shoe models. I have also provided the appropriate link to each of the models (under the photo of the shoes) which  directs you to the New Balance website for the models – so you don’t get lost within the New Balance website.

1400 Bespoke Crooners

1400 Bespoke Crooners

1400 Bespoke Crooners – Men’s 1400 – Classic, – New Balance – US – 2

A smooth silhouette fit for a night out, the 1400 Bespoke Crooners men’s sneaker is proudly crafted in the USA using Chicago-sourced Horween® leather.

1300 Explore by Sea

1300 Explore by Sea

Link: 1300 Explore by Sea

1700 Explore by Sea

1700 Explore by Sea

Link: 1700 Explore by Sea

997 Distinct Retro Ski - these are actually from the retro line and do not use Horween Leather

997 Distinct Retro Ski – these are actually from the retro line using touches of Horween Leather

Link: 997 Distinct Retro Ski

998 Explore By Sea

998 Explore By Sea

Link: 998 Explore By Sea

990 Distinct Hamptons

990 Distinct Hamptons

Link: 990 Distinct Hamptons

997 Distinct USA

997 Distinct USA

Link: 997 Distinct USA

998 Horween Leather - Burgundy - introduced in late 2014

998 Horween Leather – Burgundy – introduced in late 2014

Link: Horween Leather – Burgundy


New Balance had been the only shoe manufacturer that still makes athletic shoes Made in the USA. You may argue that P.F. Flyers also makes sneakers in the USA, but P.F. Flyers are owned by New Balance. High end sneakers are the latest fashion trend, kind of like high end Tequlia. Even P.F. Flyers have a high end sneaker.

P F Flyers Leather - in conjunction with Tanner Leathers

P F Flyers Leather – in conjunction with Tanner Leathers

The high end New Balance sneakers have some great models, however, their marketing of them is very substandard. I am not sure how you will know when the latest edition comes out unless you subscribe to Leather Soul that I mentioned earlier.

In case, you do not like any models seen on the New Balance website, it turns out that you can customize you own shoe, many different color combinations and several different models to choose from. Go to New Balance, com and go to “Customize”.

Happy shoe hunting.


Americans Have No Right To Be Angry

Americans really have no right to be angry. Really?! These two newspaper articles prove that we Americans have brought our economic malaise upon ourselves. After so many years and with all of the evidence, a majority of Americans still don’t realize that we have directly caused the middle class to disappear and why all the profits go to the top 1%. The first article is “Americans prefer low prices to items ‘Made in the USA'”. The second article is “Exit Polls: Wisconsin Voters Say Trade Leads to Job Losses.”

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have turned conventional politics upside down. A large part of their message is that Americans are sick and tired of losing jobs overseas which has created a decrease in good paying jobs. This has caused an angry electorate. So, why does the angry electorate not decry the Free Trade agreements, or stopping buying slave labor made products?  I think that maybe the angry electorate either has no clue what is causing the problem or are so selfish that since it does not effect themselves personally, it won’t change their actions. I believe it is a little of both.

Is Free Trade Sinking?

Is Free Trade Sinking?


Source: Poll: Americans prefer low prices to items “Made in the USA” – CBS News

WASHINGTON – The vast majority of Americans say they prefer lower prices instead of paying a premium for items labeled “Made in the USA,” even if it means those cheaper items are made abroad, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

While presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are vowing to bring back millions of American jobs lost to China and other foreign competitors, public sentiment reflects core challenges confronting the U.S. economy. Incomes have barely improved, forcing many households to look for the most convenient bargains instead of goods made in America.

Employers now seek workers with college degrees, leaving those with only a high school degree who once would have held assembly lines jobs in the lurch. And some Americans who work at companies with clients worldwide see themselves as part of a global market.

Nearly three in four say they would like to buy goods manufactured inside the United States, but those items are often too costly or difficult to find, according to the survey released Thursday. A mere 9 percent say they only buy American.

Asked about a real world example of choosing between $50 pants made in another country or an $85 pair made in the United States – one retailer sells two such pairs made with the same fabric and design – 67 percent say they’d buy the cheaper pair. Only 30 percent would pony up for the more expensive American-made one. People in higher earning households earning more than $100,000 a year are no less likely than lower-income Americans to say they’d go for the lower price.

“Low prices are a positive for US consumers – it stretches budgets and allows people to save for their retirements, if they’re wise, with dollars that would otherwise be spent on day-to-day living,” said Sonya Grob, 57, a middle school secretary from Norman, Oklahoma who described herself as a “liberal Democrat.”

But Trump and Sanders have galvanized many voters by attacking recent trade deals.

From their perspective, layoffs and shuttered factories have erased the benefits to the economy from reduced consumer prices.

“We’re getting ripped off on trade by everyone,” said Trump, the Republican front-runner, at a Monday speech in Albany, New York. “Jobs are going down the drain, folks.”

The real estate mogul and reality television star has threatened to shred the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He has also threatened to slap sharp tariffs on China in hopes of erasing the overall $540 billion trade deficit.

Economists doubt that Trump could deliver on his promises to create the first trade surplus since 1975. Many see the backlash against trade as frustration with a broader economy coping with sluggish income gains.

“The reaction to trade is less about trade and more about the decline in people’s ability to achieve the American Dream,” said Caroline Freund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It’s a lot easier to blame the foreigner than other forces that are affecting stagnant wage growth like technology.”

But Trump’s message appeals to Merry Post, 58, of Paris, Texas where the empty factories are daily reminders of what was lost. Sixty-eight percent of people with a favorable opinion of Trump said that free trade agreements decreased the number of jobs available to Americans.

“In our area down here in Texas, there used to be sewing factories and a lot of cotton gins,” Post said. “I’ve watched them all shut down as things went to China, Mexico and the Philippines. All my friends had to take early retirements or walk away.”

Sanders, the Vermont senator battling for the Democratic nomination, has pledged to end the exodus of jobs overseas.

“I will stop it by renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have,” Sanders told the New York Daily News editorial board earlier this month, saying that the wages paid to foreigner workers and environmental standards would be part of any deal he would strike.

Still, voters are divided as to whether free trade agreements hurt job creation and incomes.

Americans are slightly more likely to say free trade agreements are positive for the economy overall than negative, 33 percent to 27 percent. But 37 percent say the deals make no difference. Republicans (35 percent) are more likely than Democrats (22 percent) to say free trade agreements are bad for the economy.

On jobs, 46 percent say the agreements decrease jobs for American workers, while 11 percent say they improve employment opportunities and 40 percent that they make no difference. Pessimism was especially pronounced among the 18 percent of respondents with a family member or friend whose job was offshored. Sixty-four percent of this group said free trade had decreased the availability of jobs.


It is strange that the party that has always supported the Free Trade Agreements are more likely than the Democrats to look unfavorably towards the Free Trade agreements. It is, also, paradoxical, that any Bernie Sanders supporters would support the Free Trade policies as he has been the only candidate who has consistently been against the Free Trade policies.
If you want to know more about the consequences of Free Trade, see my concise blog entry Why Free Trade is Devastating to the USA.
The United States is by no means out of the woods when it comes to offshoring jobs to other countries – companies are closing down plants in the United States and moving to other countries every week, see Carrier, Ford. While multi-national companies like Tyson Chicken continue to shut down all their US plants while expanding to other countries, like Hershey’s Chocolates did soon after NAFTA passed. The USA is bringing back some jobs back from other countries, but it is a trickle. And do not forget that it is quite likely that your own jobs is potentially offshorable in the next five years. According to the Congressional Research Service 25% of all service US jobs (or 40 million jobs) may be offshored. That is on top of the manufacturing jobs that are continuing to be offshored.
Spread the word: Buying Made in USA is very important and Free Trade Agreements are THE reason why we are losing so many good paying jobs.

The Sock Queen of Alabama – The New York Times

When the onetime sock capital of the world’s industry collapsed, it was “like a vacuum cleaner pulled all the people out of town.” But then Gina Locklear had an idea.

The Sock Queen of Alabama

written by Steven Kurutz in the New York Times

Source: The Sock Queen of Alabama – The New York Times

The Sock Queen of Alabama

FORT PAYNE, Ala. — Nine years ago, when she was 27 and unhappily selling real estate, Gina Locklear went to her parents with a proposition. She wanted to make socks. Not the basic white socks the family had specialized in, but fashionable socks, with organic cotton and dyes.

“I want to get into the sock business,” she told them. “I want to make a sustainable sock.”

Ms. Locklear, now 36, grew up in the business. Her parents, Terry and Regina Locklear, started a mill in Fort Payne, Ala., in 1991. They made white sport socks for Russell Athletic, millions of them, destined for big-box stores and your own feet if you took gym class.

Gina’s younger sister, Emily, recalled the girls going to the mill after school, where they helped their parents sort socks into dozens or played in the bins. Named after the two daughters, Emi-G Knitting bought the Locklears a house, bought Terry a vintage Corvette and paid for the girls’ college educations.

Still, the idea of Gina and her parents making organic fashion socks, or any socks at all, seemed totally crazy, given the time and place.

The mid-2000s was a devastating period for Fort Payne. Nestled in the state’s mountainous northeast, the town of 14,000 had for decades billed itself as “the Sock Capital of the World.” The cushioned sock was invented here, and one in every eight pairs of socks sold globally was said to be knitted in Fort Payne.

A Photo of WB Davies Hosiery Mill, 1933

A Photo of WB Davies Hosiery Mill, 1933

At the industry’s peak in the 1990s, more than 120 mills employed roughly 7,500 workers. But cheap foreign labor and free-trade agreements made the town a loser in the game of global economics. Seemingly overnight, the mills closed, and the new Fort Payne became a town in China called Datang. The 2008 financial crisis finished off those who were still hanging on.

“It was like a vacuum cleaner pulled all the people out of town,” Terry said.

The Locklears held on to their mill, but barely. Orders dried up, including those from Russell Athletic, and they cut the work force to almost nothing. Terry’s goal was to keep the lights on, because he knew if he and Regina closed the doors and turned the power off, they’d never start back up.

“We’d just come here and sit,” Terry said. “We would talk, and it was, like, ‘I just don’t know what we’re going to do.’ We still had our knowledge.”

It was during these depths that Gina approached her parents with her idea. While almost everyone else in the sock business was being thrown to the exits, she passionately wanted in. “I was 12 when my parents started making socks,” Gina said. “And the realization that our family business might close made me mad.”

Her parents were skeptical. They knew how hard it was to compete and how much money it would take to start a brand. They didn’t get the whole organic thing. Most of all, they didn’t want their oldest daughter to do something she’d soon regret or tire of.

“But it’s been everything except any of that,” her father said.

Her mother added: “She absolutely loves what she does. She’s on fire.”

When you hear the words textile mill, you may picture a brick building a century old and as big as a city block. You may hear the clack-clack of jittery machinery. But Emi-G Knitting is a modern contained operation in a squat metal building on the outskirts of Fort Payne.

One recent morning, Gina was in her office, working on spring orders. She produces two lines: Zkano, an online brand she started in 2008, and Little River Sock Mill, which was started in 2013 and is sold in stores like Margaret O’Leary in Manhattan.

Zkano’s “crews” and “no shows” are a youthful riot of stripes and colors, while the Little River socks are more refined (the fall line was based on Southern quilt patterns). Both cost $13 to $30 a pair.

A "Mood Board" of socks, patterns and styles

A “Mood Board” of socks, patterns and colors hangs in Gina Locklear’s office at Emi-G Knitting

Going organic (the cotton comes from a farm in Lubbock, Tex., the dyes from North Carolina) has given Gina a marketing niche. Her socks appeal to millennials, who study labels and like a compelling origin story.

“I’m not sure most customers can detect it, but it’s certainly a bonus that they’re made from organic cotton — it adds a point of difference,” said Billy Reid, the Alabama-based men’s wear designer, who partnered with Gina to make socks based on his designs.

Last fall, Martha Stewart and the editors of Martha Stewart Living presented Gina with an American Made award, which they give each year to a few artisans and small-business owners to provide a boost of recognition.

“Encouraging the American public to buy American-made matters,” Ms. Stewart said. “The more socks she sells, the more people she can employ.”
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Besides, “It’s a sensible business,” Ms. Stewart said. “Everyone needs socks. Women are wearing socks as a fashion statement like never before. Turn the pages of Vogue and almost every fancy dress is worn with a pair of socks.”

Indeed, the humble sock is having a moment. Brands like Stance Socks, which partnered with Rihanna on a collection, and Slate & Stone are selling vibrant hosiery, or pop socks, while Miu Miu recently outfitted runway models in marled and argyle socks.

Gina plans to introduce men’s socks to Little River this fall. Zkano already offers them. Tony Hale’s character on “Veep” wears Zkano socks, as does the actor himself.

Gina notices socks everywhere she goes, and in winter wears two pairs, one during daytime, another to bed. Her office décor is entirely hosiery-related: spools of candy-colored yarn on a shelf, mateless samples pinned to corkboards.

She lives with her husband, Al Vreeland, in Birmingham, Ala., an hour and a half’s drive away, and spends part of each week in Fort Payne, staying in her childhood bedroom. Her husband, a lawyer, is “cool” with the arrangement, she said, adding, “It’s been this way ever since we started dating.”

They were married three years ago, during the busy holiday season, at a chapel in Santa Fe, N.M., on a Saturday. “We came home on Sunday,” she said. “And then I went to Fort Payne on Monday. And that’s my life.”
Inspection of socks                                                           Ms. Locklear looks on as Rhonda Whitmire inspects socks. If there is a customer service issue, Ms. Locklear handles it herself — in addition to ordering yarn, designing both lines, doing social media marketing, processing credit card orders and lying awake nights with worry.

When she’s at the mill, her focus is on the knitting machines and whether they are aiding or conspiring against her. The machines are aqua blue and boxy like ovens. Above them, a halo of metalwork holds the yarn being fed into their bellies. Gina watched a machine work, and after a moment, in a Willy Wonka flourish, a plastic tube spit out an orange-striped sock.

“I love that,” she said.

Pointing to a machine that was noticeably different from the others, she said: “It’s the newest sock machine you can get. It’s made in Italy. It’s like a Ferrari.”

She spotted Vance Veal, Emi-G’s plant manager, and waved him over. When her parents laid off all but their most vital workers, they kept him on the payroll. Mr. Veal, 48, has worked in sock mills since he was 18. His grandparents, mother and brothers worked in the mills, too.

Since Gina came along with her six-color fashion socks, he has made the machines do things no one at Emi-G thought possible, himself included. “We didn’t used to make pattern socks,” Mr. Veal said. “Gina keeps me on my toes. She’s made me better at what I do.”

In a honeyed voice, Gina said, “Vance is the most patient person ever.”

With Mr. Veal’s expertise, Gina can make socks in small batches on site, fine-tuning and experimenting with colors, patterns and materials. It’s a competitive advantage. But running a sock mill in the age of globalization is a “roller coaster,” she said. Her parents’ business making specialty athletic socks now comes in fits and bursts, nothing like the steady, profitable Russell contract. And Zkano and Little River don’t yet sell enough to sustain the mill alone.

Last year, Emi-G downsized its work force from 45 to 30. If there is a customer service issue, Gina handles it herself — in addition to ordering yarn, designing both lines, doing social media marketing, processing credit card orders and lying awake nights with worry.

“If something happened to Vance, I wouldn’t know what we would do,” she said later. “When the sock industry left, a lot of the workers left town, and their knowledge left, too.”


 Vance Veal runs the day-to-day operations at the Emi-G mill. When Ms. Locklear’s parents laid off all but their most vital workers, they kept him on the payroll. Mr. Veal, 48, has worked in sock mills since he was 18. His grandparents, mother and brothers worked in the mills, too. Credit Raymond McCrea Jones for The New York Times

Vance Veal runs the day-to-day operations at the Emi-G mill. When Ms. Locklear’s parents laid off all but their most vital workers, they kept him on the payroll. Mr. Veal, 48, has worked in sock mills since he was 18. His grandparents, mother and brothers worked in the mills, too. Credit Raymond McCrea Jones for The New York Times

Gina and her parents drove into town to have lunch at what’s referred to in Fort Payne as the Big Mill. Now an antique store and restaurant, the Big Mill is indeed a century-old brick building as big as a city block. It’s where W. B. Davis ran the town’s first hosiery mill in the early-1900s. It’s the building that begot an industry.

Over pimento cheese sandwiches, Terry and Regina recalled their beginnings. Terry’s mother had worked in a mill, and his older brother owned one. When he was miserable selling cars down in Tuscaloosa, it seemed natural to come home and try socks.

Asked if the current building was their original location, Terry, who is 71 and has a bashful charm, said: “No. I’m almost ashamed to tell you. We started in a renovated chicken house.”

There was no air-conditioning. In the summer, they would open the big doors on both ends to get a little breeze going. “Birds would fly through while we worked,” Terry said.

With so few mills left in Fort Payne, Gina and her parents are now the old guard. But with the industry’s diminishment, they carry little of the economic or civic power of the mill owners before them.

Framed portraits of men like Mr. Davis and W. H. Cobble Sr. hang inside the Hosiery Museum, in a historic storefront downtown. The photo of V. I. Prewett, the founder of Prewett Mills, shows a gray-haired man holding a pair of tube socks.

Among the museum’s historic machinery is a brass whistle on a pole that was once used to signal the start of the workday at the Big Mill. In the morning darkness, said Olivia Cox, the vice president of landmarks for DeKalb County, Ala., the mountainside behind the factory appeared “lit by fireflies,” with the workers “walking down footpaths by lantern light to get to the Big Mill before that whistle blew.”
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Everyone in Fort Payne was touched by the hosiery industry in some way. That night, Gina stopped for dinner at a barbecue place in town; the young man behind the counter had worked in a machine shop that repaired the type of knitters Emi-G uses. His name was Bo Doeg.

He and Gina got to reminiscing about Hosiery Week, a yearly festival that Mr. Doeg described as “Mardi Gras — but for socks.”

Mr. Doeg shook his head. “This is a different world than it used to be,” he said. “Have you seen the vast number of empty buildings?”

Gina was back at the mill by 8:30 the next morning, logging orders from store buyers and considering ideas for the next Little River line, which she develops with a designer in Birmingham. “We’re thinking about Appalachian florals,” she said.

She talked about the challenges she faces, from getting organic cotton at a good price to wanting a family but not knowing how, since she spends so much time at the mill. “I’ll just be honest, it’s been a struggle,” she said.

But she is determined to keep going, to make Fort Payne a place where socks are once again made by the millions.

“It’s hard every day but I still love it,” she said. “It’s what I want to do forever.”


From the ashes of the closed Russell Athletic sock mill, raised the Phoenix, in the form of Zkano socks. I love these types of stories – stories of coming back, the stories of small companies and not large multi-national corporations that churn out tons of clothing items per day. And Zkano socks are organic as well everything made in the USA.


Keen Increases Its Commitment to American Manufacturing | Footwear News

In recent years, Keen has boosted footwear production and doubled the size of the workforce at its Portland, Ore., factory.

Source: Keen Increases Its Commitment to American Manufacturing | Footwear News

Keen Expands Commitment to American Manufacturing

Keen Portland Factory

Inside Keen’s Portland footwear factory. Courtesy of brand.

The made-in-America movement is making progress, thanks to Portland, Ore.-based Keen.

Since launching its U.S. assembly plant in 2010, the company has been steadily expanding operations at the factory, located on Portland’s Swan Island.

And in the past couple of years, it has revved up growth in a serious way. Since 2014, its has doubled the size of the workforce at its factory, now employing more than 60 people. Production has increased 20 percent from 2015 to 2016.

The Swan Island factory currently produces 15 different SKUs from Keen’s American Built collection. Among those items are high-end outdoor hiking shoes and Utility work boots. In addition, the team recently began making its first volume sandal, the Rialto.

Keen Portland Factory
Keen Portland Factory
Inside Keen’s Portland Footwear Factory. Courtesy of brand.

Chris Heffernan, GM of the Keen Utility division, said that U.S. production offers a strategic advantage for the brand. “We are able to respond much more quickly to demand, maintain tighter control over product quality, and develop new product concepts on a significantly reduced lead time,” he said.

And Keen’s made-in-America collection also resonates with consumers. “Our consumers prefer American Built products and support companies who are bringing production and jobs back to American soil,” said Heffernan. “This is clear to us given the response and sales we’re seeing behind our Mt. Vernon, Braddock and Leavenworth workboots.”

As a result, Keen plans to continue to grow its domestic production. In 2017 alone, it intends to add another eight to 10 Utility styles.

Keen Portland Factory
Keen Portland Factory
Inside Keen’s Portland Footwear Factory. Courtesy of brand.

Helping to lead the charge is Claire Juttelstad, the new director of manufacturing. She joined the company in January after previous stints at Benchmark Knife Co. and Lacrosse Footwear.

Juttelstad oversees all operations at the Portland factory, including engineering, quality, production, cost and inventory.

“I am committed to manufacturing the finest-quality American Built work and hiking products right here at our production facility in Portland,” she said. “As a company, we are committed to significantly growing our production for 2017 and the future.”


Yes Donald, You Can Make Suits in America | Alliance for American Manufacturing

Yes Donald, You Can Make Suits in America

Yes Donald, You Can Make Suits in America | Alliance for American Manufacturing

Joseph Abboud worked with six other Made in America designers to "put together an epic collection" during New York Fashion Week. | Photo via Joseph Abboud on Instagram

Joseph Abboud worked with six other Made in America designers to “put together an epic collection” during New York Fashion Week. | Photo via Joseph Abboud on Instagram

Trump says he doesn’t make his suits here because it’s “very hard.” Here’s proof he’s wrong.

One of the prevailing storylines of the 2016 presidential election has been Donald Trump’s rather combative stance toward companies that offshore their production.

The Donald has threatened Apple. And Ford. And Nabisco. Once he’s president, Trump promises that he will force these companies to bring their production back to American shores.

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we’d love to see companies like these bring their factories back to the United States. But let’s be real: Trump is a huge hypocrite.

His own line of suits and ties are made outside the United States in places like China and Mexico. Trump’s daughter Ivanka also outsources production of her popular fashion line, which includes shoes, dresses, and handbags. Trump owns up to this, saying that it’s “very, very hard to have anything in apparel made in this country.

But if Trump really wanted to manufacture his clothing line in America, he could. Below are just a handful of the (very successful!) suit and tie makers who make their products in the United States.

Joseph Abboud

The popular suits — sold at the Men’s Wearhouse chain — are made in the designer’s home state of Massachusetts. Abboud takes pride in keeping it Made in America, and even gave Gov. Charlie Baker a tour of his factory this week.

“The workforce is a highly skilled workforce,” Abboud told the Boston Globe. “When you have 700 to 800 people in your factory, they aren’t individual people, they’re families… I always say it’s great to be made in America, but our distinction is that we’re made well in America.”

Brooks Brothers

Every retail tie produced by the classic chain has at least some of it made by hand in Long Island City, just 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan. Some of the chain’s clothing and accessories also are made in the United States, including suits, jeans, loafers, and cuff links.


Founded in 1880 in Tennessee, Hardwick bills itself as “America’s Oldest Tailor Made Clothing Company.” The company’s Italian Super 150’s Navy Blazer was named a 2015 Made in the South Awards winner by Garden and Gun magazine.

Read Wall

Launched in Washington’s preppy Georgetown neighborhood, Read Wall calls itself a purveyor of “great, American tailored clothing.” Suits are made to order, and the company also prides itself on sourcing fabric from American mills whenever possible.

Hart Schaffner Marx

While Read Wall began just a few years ago, Hart Schaffner Marx traces its roots way back to 1887, when immigrant brothers Harry and Max Hart opened up a men’s store in downtown Chicago. The brand continues to thrive, as its American-made men’s suits are available at retailers such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.

Hickey Freeman

Dillards and Nordstrom are among the retailers that sell suits from this New York company, whose motto is “Keep the Quality Up.” Since 1899, the retailer has made its suits in a factory in Rochester dubbed “The Temple.”

Ratio Clothing

Looking for an American-made dress or tuxedo shirt? Eric Powell founded Ratio in 2009 because he couldn’t find a quality shirt that fit well. Ratio manufactures all of its custom-made shirts in the United States, and has been featured in men’s style magazines like Esquire and Details.

Todd Shelton

Like Ratio, this New Jersey-based menswear brand is dedicated to manufacturing dress shirts that fit well. The company also offers jeans, pants and T-shirts, all of which is made at the company’s factory in East Rutherford.

This article is from The Alliance for American Manufacturing website.

May 2016
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