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Best Practices: Keen Builds Boots in America, Not Abroad

High-tech manufacturing can give American companies an edge at home.


Prevailing wisdom has it that the path to cost-effective manufacturing is through the East: Low-cost labor in China, Taiwan and other Pacific-rim emerging markets is seen as the key to low-priced consumer goods in the United States. Keen Footwear, the Portland-based GOOD Company finalist, is bucking the outsourcing trend with a broader view of the costs of supply-chain maintenance and a new factory churning out American-built boots for American workers.

The 15,000-square-foot facility opened last year just five miles from the company’s headquarters and has two full production lines creating steel-toed boots and casual shoes. The machinery relies on a direct injection process that uses fewer oil-based adhesives and requires less energy than traditional manufacturing techniques.

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