New Balance makes shoes in the U.S.-- and it supports U.S. jobs
The New Balance Athletic Shoe Company is the last major manufacturer of athletic footwear in the U.S. It's also the largest employer in Central Maine.
An interesting way to look at just how important New Balance is to the surrounding Maine community is to consider the Snack Shack restaurant in Skowhegan, Maine. Owner Brady Chapman recently explained to BusinessWeek reporter Eric Martin that it's New Balance's employees who regularly eat at his restaurant. Without the continuing activity of the nearby factory, Chapman says he couldn't stay in business.
So what would happen, then, if New Balance were unable to continue? Factory workers would lose their jobs, and so would Chapman. That's a simple example of how manufacturing holds such a powerful sway over the surrounding economy.
New Balance may be a leading brand, but it's future is far from assured. As Martin reports, a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that President Barack Obama is negotiating with eight Pacific nations (including Vietnam) could contain provisions that would eliminate footwear tariffs.
As Chapman sees it, “If somehow these tariffs were not there, and you bring in all these imports, there’s no way they can compete. It would be devastating.”
While a domestic manufacturer sees such tariffs as essential to counter any subsidized advantages enjoyed by overseas shoe manufacturers, competing brand Nike is pushing for elimination of the same duties. Because Nike's factories are located overseas, they want to be able to import as many shoes as possible.
The bottom line, though, is whether the U.S. economy would be better served if consumers could buy lower-cost shoes from overseas, or could maintain good-paying manufacturing jobs?
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