Flint manufacturer pushes for American-made shoes for military - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Flint manufacturer pushes for American-made shoes for military

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FLINT (WJRT) - (04/28/14) - Pressure from lawmakers and an American-made athletic shoe company has prompted the Department of Defense to make a big change.

And that could help a Flint manufacturer, down the road.

We're talking about Rogers Foam. It's main customers are car makers. "We're a foam fabricator for the automotive industry. GM, Chrysler, Ford," said Tim Nyman, the plant manager at Rogers Foam in Flint.

When ABC12 visited, they were making foam parts that will end up in a Chevy Volt.

Rogers Foam also has a foot in the door at an athletic shoe manufacturer. "We are working with New Balance," Nyman said.

New Balance is based in Boston, Mass. and has five U.S. Factories.

Rogers Foam is one of their suppliers. "In the tongue and ankle area, we produce some of the foam for that area," Nyman said.

It's Rogers Foam and New Balance's made in the USA approach that has them on the front lines of a fight to put American-made athletic shoes on our military men and women.

Under the Berry Amendment, created all the way back in 1941, our service members have to wear American-made items.

But there was a loophole when it came to sneakers, because military members were able to buy their own, with a government footware allowance. Meaning, service members could buy and wear any shoes they wanted.

ABC12 first spoke to New Balance's government affairs department head, Matt LeBretton last week. At the time the company was fighting to make a change. "It's beyond us, in terms of trying to understand why the military would prefer to have foreign made shoes on our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines."

But pressure from New Balance and several lawmakers, including Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, resulted in a big change.

Friday the Department of Defense announced it would immediately require military members to use their government-issued footware allowance, on made in the USA shoes.

"As the last major athletic shoe manufacturer in the United States, our supply chain is critical. And anything we can do that would help them, help support their business, help a business like Rogers grow, we're going to do it," LeBretton said.

"With that it would help create more jobs potentially for the Michigan area and wherever there's shoe manufacturers out there," Nyman said.

Monday, LeBretton's office sent ABC12 the following statement:

"We are excited about the potential path forward for New Balance with the Department of Defense policy change that requires American-made athletic shoes for our country's soldiers. This decision will create more American jobs at manufacturers and suppliers in Maine and Massachusetts and across the country. We look forward to moving through the implementation process and competing to provide our American military with the very best in U.S.-made athletic shoes."

So someday soon, you may see Rogers Foam parts, on feet around the world.
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