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U.S.-made shoe plan needs your support
By Jeremiah Turner jturner@
Sunday, September 22, 2013

timberland We all know them, the whiners, especially when it comes to U.S. manufacturing. They sneer and complain about foreign-made products, as they shop at big box stores for the most inexpensive items invariably made in China. On and on they rattle about unfair trade policies, then drive away in cars made in Germany or Japan, their shirts knitted in Nepal and Vietnam flapping in the breeze. Well, we now have an outlet for this nattering negativism and a way to correct things. All thanks to New England Footwear, a small company in Newmarket with big ambitions. You may recognize their popular brand for active people, GoLite. The colorful trail shoes are sold on the Internet and locally at Kittery Trading Post and J.L. Coombs. Like most other shoes we buy here, they’re made in China where labor is cheap. That’s about to change. NE Footwear was founded in 2008 by former Timberland exec Doug Clark. Back then, he lamented the loss of New England’s status as the center of shoe manufacturing. He said he hoped to one day perfect a manufacturing process that could make it economical to bring it back here.

timberland boot sale In 2011, the company won a prestigious Green Launching Pad award from the University of New Hampshire to work on that idea. True to form, the firm has moved from concept stage to boots on the (U.S.) ground. It is lining up financing and soon will move to a manufacturing location in Stratham. The plan is to raise about $1.5 million and purchase the specialized equipment to start making its shoes here in a new way that will reduce material and especially labor costs. Within a few years, NE Footwear plans to be making its brands here using American suppliers for materials such as adhesives, rubber, leather and fabric. Once it builds out the infrastructure to take care of its own brands, it will offer to make other companies’ shoes here as well. Eventually, it hopes to reclaim the manufacturing and supply chain for shoes we lost during the last 30 years. Drive through any of our river towns, past millions of square feet of former bustling brick mills, and you see the industrial past that made us a world powerhouse. Imagine the potential if Clark and his team can pull it off.

timberland fashion boots Now this is where we the people come in. NE Footwear is turning to crowd-funding to kick-start the process. Go to http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/buy-a-pair-change-the-game-make-footwear-here-in-the-usa for details. The initiative will last until Nov. 4, with the goal of raising $150,000. You can simply support the effort for $20 and get your name on a plaque in the foyer of the new office. Even better, for $45 reserve one of the first pairs of NE Footwear’s Comp XT cross training shoes when they come off the U.S. manufacturing line in Stratham sometime next year. (It’s a deal as they retail for $120.) They’ll be shipped to you and you’ll get your name in the company foyer. The $150,000 indiegogo.com campaign is not really about the money or the plaque. What it is about is our support. As NE Footwear talks with investors about obtaining financing for the plan, it would be helpful if it could point to thousands of orders from individuals already booked. People who want to see their shoes made in the U.S. again. People who’ve “voted with their wallets.”

discount timberland boots For $45 you reserve a neat pair of shoes and help the U.S. restore manufacturing bragging rights. What a deal! The next time someone opens their mouth about the lack of American-made this or that, you know what to put in it. An order for NE Footwear shoes, soon to be made down the road. It is put up or shut up time. Don’t say you can’t do something about our situation. Now you can. Jeremiah Turner can be reached at jturner@.
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