Aaron Nathans writes about Port Washington’s Allen Edmonds Shoe Company, and their ongoing efforts to continue making shoes, competitively, in Wisconsin (rather than China):
The rumble, hum and clack of the Allen-Edmonds shoe factory went quiet in late December. Many of the machines that helped workers pack insoles, trim the leather and buff the finished men’s dress shoes were gone by New Year’s Day.
But John Stollenwerk, the president of the company, was not preparing to send his operations overseas. Instead, Mr. Stollenwerk gambled on staying put and reconfiguring his factory floor, which reopened on Jan. 5, with a new manufacturing method that could increase production and cut down on mistakes. The moves required an investment of $1 million, or 1.1 percent of the company’s 2003 sales.
Mr. Stollenwerk is resisting a tide that has decimated the American shoe manufacturing industry: About 98.5 percent of shoes sold in the United States are now made abroad, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, which is based in Arlington, Va.