New Balance announced it had reached a $17.3 million agreement to make sneakers for the military. The Boston-based shoe brand will make the new 950v2 specifically for the military.
“This is a great win for the preservation and growth of American manufacturing jobs,” says Rob DeMartini, President & CEO at New Balance. The brand currently employs about 1,000 workers in the United States, and though it estimates this military deal with lead to more hires, it’s unclear how many new employees will join as a direct result.
The NB-military relationship significantly predates the Trump administration. “New Balance has been the sole supplier of athletic footwear to the US Navy and the US Marine Corps since at least 1998,” says Brad Miller, General Manager of New Balance’s Enduring Purpose division (which oversees its “Made in the USA” projects). “We also have provided footwear for the US Army and US Airforce.”
Then, in 2012, New Balance sought a contract to create sneakers for the U.S. military—they even invested in an IMEVA machine, a device that allowed them to produce fully molded midsoles here in the U.S.—but a deal never came to fruition. In 2016, the Boston Globe reported that the dad sneaker experts promised to remain quiet about the TPP in exchange for the contract—a promise they claimed President Obama never kept.
Under the deal, New Balance will produce and distribute a model called the 950v2. According the New Balance, the 950v2 “was developed specifically for the military and will be available in three running shoe types for men and women including neutral, stability and motion control.” To make the shoes, the brand is working with 21 American subcontractors, with materials that are 100% made in America.
The “Made in the USA” part seems like an obvious condition, but in the past, New Balance has faced legal trouble for what some considered false “Made in the USA” claims, including a 2016 lawsuit (still pending) alleging that the brand knowingly sold sneakers labeled “Made in the USA” that were made of up to 30 percent foreign labor and materials.
While the $17 million-dollar contract is a lot of money, it is a drop in the bucket to the $4 billion dollars a year revenue made by the company. Why is it a big deal to the company? Patriotism, while other companies are openly spouting anti-Trump campaigns, the New Balance brand is, while not specifically pro-Trump very much pro-American.
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Photo courtesy: New Balance