New Balance News

From WaPo:

By , Published: July 28

NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine — At the factory here owned by New Balance, the last major athletic shoe brand to manufacture footwear in the United States, even workers on the shop floor recognize that in purely economic terms, the operation doesn’t make sense.

The company could make far more money if, like Nike and Adidas, it shifted virtually all of these jobs to low-wage countries.

So employees try working each shift to make it up. Conversations on the shop floor are sparse at best, and the tasks at each work station have been stripped of waste and precisely timed. Workers cut leather for a pair of shoes in 88 seconds, handle precise stitching in 37 seconds and glue soles to uppers even faster.

“The company already could make more money by going overseas, and they know it,” said Scott Boulette, 35, a burly team leader who has his son’s name tattooed in Gothic letters down his left forearm. “So we hustle.”

Now, however, comes what may be an insurmountable challenge. The Obama administration is negotiating a free-trade agreement with Vietnam and seven other countries, and it is unclear whether the plant can stand up to a flood of shoes from that country, already one of the leading exporters of footwear to the United States.

“We are deeply concerned by the inclusion of Vietnam in a potential free-trade agreement,” said Rob DeMartini, president and chief executive of New Balance.

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  • Richard

    Globalism, the not so new weapon of the empire…

  • Pat Pope

    I’m glad to know this. The next time I buy walking shoes, which will be soon, I’ll make sure to buy New Balance.

  • T

    I’m torn about this. On the one hand, clearly the people of Vietnam need more work in a big way; they need more demand for their services to get wages up. At the same time, I admire New Balance and similar companies who have tried to stay local out of loyalty to good employees, etc. I hope New Balance and their employees can meet the transition well.

  • MKing

    Why is it, then, that the New Balance shoes I have on my feet right now show that they were made it China? They are model 920. Any answers out there?

  • Robin


    The best bet would be that some of their shoes are made here, and some are made elsewhere. That is common in things like cars, but in shoes it is remarkable that a major manufacturer makes any products in this country anymore.

  • Tim

    Good comments get me to thinking why it always feels like “heads you win, tails we lose.”

  • Fish

    Why can money capital flow freely across borders at the whim of its owner, but labor capital cannot?

  • DRT

    All I buy is NB. Love them.

    This is an issue of regulation. If we feel that we would not want our workers to be subjected to substandard working conditions then we need to have the proper enforcement of working conditions in our trading partners. Anything less is greed, and we have lots of that.

  • The article above implies that most or all New Balance shoes are made in the USA (unlike other shoe companies). I have two pairs (645s and 749s), both of which were made in China. I like their shoes and will continue to buy New Balance shoes, but I think the article was a bit misleading.

  • DRT

    ….and if you can tell me that I am doing the right thing in buying Rockport’s, then I will have a clear conscience in the footwear department!

  • Robert

    Free trade agreements like the possible one with Vietnam are part of an open/free market system. They will benefit many at the cost of some. That is the nature of an economy. Whether you have an open or closed economy at some point people get hurt, they get left behind, they get left out. Yet more people are lifted out of dire poverty in the last 200 years because of free markets than any other force in history.

    American labor jobs are important. That said it is a farce for anyone to believe that they can work a manufacturing job and expect high wages. (Not saying this is happening in the link) But it is important that jobs stay in the US.

    With the shifting winds of the economy blowing eastward our “leaders” (sorry after the past month I can barely stomach that term for them) have a delicate balancing game. By the end of my lifetime China and the east will be economic powerhouses that are rapidly overtaking the US (i.e. by 2050.) If we don’t work with them to help them form and take advantage of early entry we will be locked out for generations to come.

    With every advancement we have some pain. Trumpeter (an economist) said growing and changing economies utilize “creative destruction” that hurts some but benefits the many. Perhaps this is a lesson for the Church that our job is to benefit all people regadless of their place in spiritual economy.