New Balance is on a mission to convince the military that it has to buy shoes made in America. And hey, coincidentally enough, New Balance actually makes shoes in America! Funny how that works out, complete with the potential for a tidy $50 million contract. Or not so coincidental if you’re a shoe company with your eye on a sizable chunk of the pie.
The prize in this case is the mass of running feet under the purview of the American military, as service members do a whole lot of running, reports Politico. New Balance wants the Pentagon to change its current rules, which currently lets each service division choose how to buy running shoes.
For example, Army and Air Force give recruits a stipend to buy their own footwear, which means they could buy brands like Nike, which is made overseas. The Navy, on the other hand, only allows its recruits to buy one brand — New Balance, which assembles its shoes in the U.S.
Now, New Balance and the American shoe industry are pressuring the Pentagon to require all branches to institute an overarching shoe policy. The shoe company points to a 1941 statute called the Berry Amendment, which requires the Pentagon to buy its food, clothing and other items from U.S. producers.
“We have not been quiet about our desire to see the department follow its own rules,” said a company spokesman. “Soldiers don’t have a choice for most of the gear that they’re given, so I don’t know why it would be different for athletic footwear. The administration talks a lot about supporting domestic manufacturing — here’s an opportunity to do it.”
Part of a bill in the House involving defense authorization would force all the services to adopt a policy close to that of the Navy’s, and will likely be taken up by the Senate before the end of the year.
The bill couldn’t go into effect until the Pentagon certifies that there are two suppliers capable of making shoes compliant with the requirements of the Berry Amendment. New Balance uses some foreign-made materials, but the company says it and at least one other company could produce shoes that are start to finish made in the U.S., if the military asks for it.
“The ‘Field of Dreams’ analogy applies,” said the New Balance spokesman. “If you build it, they will come.”
Now I expect Kevin Costner to get involved or the whole analogy will be ruined.
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