The made-in-America movement is making progress, thanks to Portland, Ore.-based Keen.
Since launching its U.S. assembly plant in 2010, the company has been steadily expanding operations at the factory, located on Portland’s Swan Island.
And in the past couple of years, it has revved up growth in a serious way. Since 2014, its has doubled the size of the workforce at its factory, now employing more than 60 people. Production has increased 20 percent from 2015 to 2016.
The Swan Island factory currently produces 15 different SKUs from Keen’s American Built collection. Among those items are high-end outdoor hiking shoes and Utility work boots. In addition, the team recently began making its first volume sandal, the Rialto.
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Chris Heffernan, GM of the Keen Utility division, said that U.S. production offers a strategic advantage for the brand. “We are able to respond much more quickly to demand, maintain tighter control over product quality, and develop new product concepts on a significantly reduced lead time,” he said.
And Keen’s made-in-America collection also resonates with consumers. “Our consumers prefer American Built products and support companies who are bringing production and jobs back to American soil,” said Heffernan. “This is clear to us given the response and sales we’re seeing behind our Mt. Vernon, Braddock and Leavenworth workboots.”
As a result, Keen plans to continue to grow its domestic production. In 2017 alone, it intends to add another eight to 10 Utility styles.
Helping to lead the charge is Claire Juttelstad, the new director of manufacturing. She joined the company in January after previous stints at Benchmark Knife Co. and Lacrosse Footwear.
Juttelstad oversees all operations at the Portland factory, including engineering, quality, production, cost and inventory.
“I am committed to manufacturing the finest-quality American Built work and hiking products right here at our production facility in Portland,” she said. “As a company, we are committed to significantly growing our production for 2017 and the future.”