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Elan Polo CEO Bullish on U.S. Manufacturing

Elan-Polo Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are taking a stand for U.S. manufacturing. 

With support from the retail powerhouse, the St. Louis-based footwear importer has partnered with McPherson Manufacturing, a fabrication leader, to establish an injection-molded footwear plant in Georgia. Elan-Polo will make product for Walmart stores at the plant.

“Without [Walmart’s] direct support and encouragement, [the project] would have been a non-starter for us,” said Elan-Polo co-CEO Joe Russell, who highlighted the retailer’s efforts to help develop the project with government, utilities, banks and equipment suppliers.

The announcement was made at the recent SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit, a first-of-its-kind national-level forum designed to connect businesses and investors from around the world with U.S. economic development organizations at the state, regional and local levels.  Walmart announced its goal of purchasing an additional $50 billion in domestically manufactured goods over the next decade.

The newly formed footwear company, EP American Footwear, will be housed in a building owned by McPherson at its headquarters in Hazelhurst, Ga. An additional onsite building will serve as a warehouse facility.

As part of the project, the two firms will tap into the local workforce. “It was an opportunity for us to locate in a community that has 15 percent unemployment and a large military base close by for us to [gain employees],” said Russell. “Walmart is committed to hiring veterans in addition to providing an opportunity to create jobs in the U.S.”
 
Russell predicted consumers will be supportive of the initiative. “If they have a choice between U.S.-made [goods], jobs and veterans, they will go with a U.S. product if it’s [priced competitively] with an imported product,” he said. “We have been able to achieve this.” 

The companies estimate that by the time the plant is up and running in March 2014, it will have created 250 jobs and produce 20,000 pairs of shoes daily. Prior to this, the shoes were sourced overseas.

According to Elan-Polo SVP Lorri Richter, Elan-Polo currently produces men’s, women’s and children’s footwear for Walmart in most classifications. However, injection-molded footwear will be the only product now made domestically and will be sold under a range of labels. In addition, shoes from other vendors could be manufactured at the facility in the future.

For his part, Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon said in a statement that the move is a sign of great progress.

“Companies, government officials and industry leaders are working together to increase manufacturing, and these efforts are helping more Americans get into good-paying jobs and more businesses reinvest in the U.S. economy.”

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