Soon, new United States military recruits will be wearing shoes made in New England. Boston-based New Balance has been awarded a $17 million Department of Defense contract to make their athletic shoes.
"We're super proud to be putting them on the feet of our military," said New Balance supervisor Deanna Tillson, who has worked at the Norridgewock, Maine plant for 19 years.
The new contract will keep workers in Massachusetts and Maine busy. According to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), New Balance will be shipping hundreds of thousands of shoes, starting this month.
Previously, the Department of Defense gave new recruits a voucher for shoes, giving them the ability to buy foreign-made athletic shoes despite a law calling for the purchase of American-made gear.
It took several years of negotiations, but the New Balance contract was a battle won with bipartisanship, according to Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the Republican representing Maine's second district.
"Congratulations on a job well done," Collins said to hundreds of workers at the Norridgewock facility Tuesday.
Members of Maine's Congressional Delegation took a tour, and a bit of victory lap around the plant, getting a look at the 950v2 model shoe.
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Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said the quality of the New England company made the contract possible.
"We could sort of open the door, but you had to step through it," he said.
All the materials of the 950v2 are from the U.S. For example, the boxtoe is from Newburyport, Massachusetts, the lining is from Haverhill, Massachusetts, the midsole is from Brighton, Massachusetts, and the counter is from Hampton, New Hampshire.
"I think we put our heart and soul into it," said Tillson.