Days after the Department of Defense announced that our country’s service members would wear American-made athletic footwear, I toured the New Balance factory in Norridgewock with U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

The employees greeted us with incredible enthusiasm. The DoD decision is a big win for them. New Balance employs about 900 Mainers at plants in Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Norway. It now stands to add several hundred employees in Maine.

Under the Berry Amendment, the Pentagon must give preference to American manufacturers in procurement decisions. But the Pentagon had maintained that no appropriate shoes for service members were available in the U.S.

That argument took a hit when Michaud presented Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman with Berry-compliant New Balance shoes.

Michaud has led on this issue for years. He’s spoken with President Obama and top military acquisition officials. He’s taken officials to New Balance to see up close the craftsmanship of Maine’s manufacturers. He’s amplified the bipartisan support, leading a letter from more than 50 lawmakers speaking out for the Berry Amendment.

The plant employees know that they have a steadfast ally in Michaud. They know he understands the importance of strengthening our manufacturing communities, having worked for nearly three decades at the Great Northern Paper Co.’s East Millinocket mill. They know he’ll always have their backs – not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but because he’s been in their shoes.

The DoD decision sends a powerful message about the power of American manufacturing. Our service members sacrifice so much for our country. When it comes to the materials they use, we must equip them with the best.

I firmly believe that our manufacturers are the best in the world, and I know that in Mike Michaud they have an advocate who will always be fighting for them.

Jeff McCabe

assistant House majority leader

D-Skowhegan