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Saving America’s Footwear Industry
Our Buy American Mention of the Week!
by Roger Simmermaker
July 28, 2003

As America continues to lose manufacturing jobs at a dizzying pace, the footwear industry is no exception. New Balance still makes about 30% of its tennis/walking shoes here, but what about dress shoes and work boots?

According to the emails I have received from subscribers of the Buy American Mention of the Week, Mason Shoes has closed the doors on its U.S. manufacturing facilities, and the Dexter factory that made the two pairs of shoes I currently have in my closet has called it quits in the U.S. as well.

Fortunately, there are at least two other U.S.-based footwear companies that continue to produce in the United States. For more information on these two companies, visit the websites www.danner.com and www.capeshoe.com.

I found out about the Danner Shoe Manufacturing Company from one of the over 600 subscribers to the Buy American Mention of the Week. Danner makes all of their shoes and boots at their 30,000 square foot factory in Portland, Oregon, where they have done so since 1936. Danner also pays union wages.

Cape Shoe Company started in the late 1990’s, after Florsheim closed its Cape Girardeau, Missouri factory and transferred production overseas. Revving the facility back up was a pretty gutsy move by owner Eli Fishman, since the outlook for an upstart footwear maker in the United States in the late 1990’s wasn’t particularly promising, to say the least. The Cape Shoe Company boasts that their products are 100% made in USA and all components are provided by American suppliers in American factories.

America’s constant bleeding in the manufacturing sector continues to amaze me. The facts and figures are clearly on the side of those who point to the benefits of favoring domestic producers over favoring foreign producers.

It is widely known that consumer spending makes up 2/3 of the economy, yet we continue to favor trade policies in this country that tend to only lower the wages of American workers by putting them in head-to-head competition with much lower paid foreign workers.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, manufacturing wages nationwide are 20% higher than the average American wage. Even free-trade economist Lori Kletzer from the University of California at Santa Cruz admits workers who lose their jobs because of either trade or technology earn an average 13% less when they find a new one, and close to 25% earn a whopping 30% less at their new job. And of course the money lost while trying to land that new job can never be recovered.

The National Association of Manufacturers claims that our massive and growing trade deficit shaves up to 2% off our GDP. I can remember in the late 1990’s when that figure was closer to 1%. The stakes are clearly higher now.

With all the evidence pointing to a strong manufacturing base as the key to at least part of America’s prosperity, you would think that today’s economic optimists would actually favor a strong national manufacturing base, but they do not. I think these optimists spend too much time analyzing the economy and not enough time living in it.

As the current optimists (who are always optimistic as long as economic theories from economic textbooks dictate trade policy) depend on consumers to not only keep America’s growth engine turning, but also the growth engine of the entire global economic system, you would think they would realize that consumers can only be as affluent as they are wage-earners. Both protection and favoritism for our own domestic producers over foreign producers is the key. The longer we fail to realize that, the longer the economy will remain in the tank.

As far as domestic production for footwear is concerned, as well as any other industry, American consumers who once supported now-shuttered domestic factories must redirect their dollars to the domestic factories that remain. It is essentially vital to this economy that we continue to have at least a minor presence in each and every manufacturing industry. So I would suggest a visit to www.danner.com and www.capeshoe.com. America’s self-sufficiency, Independence and prosperity may depend on it. Buy American shoes and boots now or there may soon not be any American shoes and boots left to buy.


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