SOUTH PORTLAND — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud used President Obama’s visit to Maine on Friday to try to boost what’s left of the state’s shoe industry, urging the commander-in-chief to insist that the Department of Defense provide U.S.-made sneakers to new recruits.

Michaud, D-Maine, had a special pair of New Balance sneakers made for the president, underscoring the company’s continued production in Maine, where it employs 900 workers.

“The Department of Defense is circumventing the Berry Amendment that requires the military to be attired head to toe in American-made clothing,” Michaud said Friday, adding that U.S.-made sneakers would be consistent with Obama’s goal of bolstering domestic manufacturing.

The sneakers, with “President Obama” sewn on the heels, were made in Norridgewock by New Balance, one of a dwindling number of shoe brands that carry the “Made in the USA” label.

Nationwide, the number of shoe-manufacturing jobs has dropped from more than 200,000 in the 1970s to about 12,500, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In Maine, well-known Maine brands such as G.H. Bass, Cole Haan, Sebago and Dexter have closed factories and moved production out of the country.

New Balance, which has three factories in Maine and two in Massachusetts, plus others overseas, is the last major athletic shoe manufacturer in the United States, said company spokesman Matt LeBretton.


The Department of Defense circumvents the Berry Amendment by giving new recruits allowances so they can buy their own shoes for athletic training, Michaud said. The shoes used for physical training should be put out to bid just as military boots are, he said.

The Obama administration declined to comment. But Obama did mention manufacturing in his speech Friday afternoon at Southern Maine Community College, saying he wants the next generation of manufacturing “to take place right here in Maine.”

New Balance contends that several other U.S. companies would be interested if the Department of Defense chose to put athletic shoes out to bid.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said LeBretton, the company spokesman. “We’re asking the Defense Department to follow the law. We’re not asking for special treatment or an earmark for our company. We’re just asking them to follow the law on the books.”


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