Elan-Polo American Footwear (EPAF) is investing $10 million to open its first American footwear manufacturing facility in Hazlehurst, Georgia. The 13-acre factory is expected to open in March 2014 and to produce 4 million pairs of shoes a year for retailers across the U.S., including Wal-Mart. The new facility should create around 250 jobs over the next three years. Previously, EPAF manufactured the shoes overseas.
Joe Russell, co-chief executive of EPAF, said that the new factory will be the largest facility for injection-molded footwear in the U.S. as well as the first large-volume manufacturer to produce shoes in the country in quite a few years. It is expected to manufacture 20,000 pairs per day.
EPAF is a partnership between Elan-Polo, a big American supplier of unbranded footwear, and McPherson Manufacturing, a provider of contract assembly and manufacturing services. In its move, EPAF is being helped by a number of state and local economic development initiatives, including the Georgia Quick Start workforce training program. The move was also made possible by Wal-Mart's support, which included guidance in contacting various states and help in developing the project from governments, utilities, banks and equipment suppliers.
FDRA (Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America), the largest footwear trade association in America, praised Elan-Polo and Wal-Mart for their new partnership to manufacture shoes in the U.S. Both Wal-Mart and Elan-Polo, a 35-year Wal-Mart supplier, are active members of the trade association. FDRA members include other shoe companies that manufacture in the U.S. including HH Brown, Wolverine Worldwide and Danner.
The “made in the USA” label is getting some traction, especially after the major increases in sourcing costs of the last few years. Danner has teamed up with Woolrich, a famous American brand of outdoor outerwear, to make its first collection of shoes in the U.S. It is going to be shortly available for orders on Danner's and Woolrich's respective websites. The manufacturing facility of H.H. Brown in Pennsylvania is making hand-lasted and hand-finished leather uppers for a new range of fashion clogs for a company called Sofft Shoe, according to Footwear News. A new player in the market, Get Grounded Footwear, has launched Groundals, a new brand of sandals made in the U.S. that use a proprietary footbed technology.