Maine lawmakers hail Pentagon decision on footwear as windfall for New Balance

Posted April 25, 2014, at 5:43 p.m.
Last modified April 25, 2014, at 6:18 p.m.
Rep. Mike Michaud holds up a pair of New Balance sneakers that he was proud to say were made in Maine and that he would be wearing during his campaigning during his official announcement of his intention to run for governor of Maine at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston.
Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Rep. Mike Michaud holds up a pair of New Balance sneakers that he was proud to say were made in Maine and that he would be wearing during his campaigning during his official announcement of his intention to run for governor of Maine at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense announced Friday that it will immediately begin requiring military service members to purchase American-made sneakers, which according to U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, could be huge for Maine-based New Balance footwear.

Under the so-called Berry Amendment, men and women in the U.S. military would be directed to use their government-issued footwear allowances to purchase American-made athletic footwear.

Michaud, who has been a proponent of the amendment for years, said Friday that to his knowledge the only companies eligible to apply for the contract to have their footwear sold in military-run retail locations are New Balance and Michigan-based Wolverine. However, Michaud said he envisions that some shoe manufacturers could bring some of their operations to the U.S. in order to compete for the contract.

“This is a tremendous victory for American-made manufacturing,” said Michaud by phone Friday afternoon. “It’s really important to make sure our brave warriors are able to wear American-made footwear and clothing. … My hope is that New Balance will get this contract.”

Michaud has been supporting the Berry Amendment for years, highlighting how it could help New Balance. He has given New Balance sneakers to President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, as well as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Michaud also urged the change in policy through his sponsorship of the American Shoes for American Servicemembers Act in 2011, which clarified a law that requires service members to wear American-made clothing to reflect that footwear was included in the requirement.

Last year, Michaud and Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., co-authored an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Bill that required the use of American-made footwear by service members except in circumstances where a medical condition requires another brand. That amendment passed in the House, but not the Senate.

“It’s a great day for American manufacturing and hopefully will be an extremely great day for New Balance,” said Michaud. “This has been a hard-fought battle where persistence ultimately paid off.”

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King echoed Michaud’s sentiments in a joint statement.

“This decision will create more American manufacturing jobs at no cost to the taxpayer simply by requiring the military to buy American-made athletic footwear for new recruits, just as it does for other uniform items for our troops,” Collins said in the statement.

“Our recruits deserve to wear the finest American-made shoes available, and I am proud New Balance footwear will have a fair shot at serving the men and women of our military,” King added.

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