Wolverine World Wide Inc. is raising the stakes on its production of footwear for the U.S. military.
The parent company of several popular footwear brands, including Sperry, Saucony and Merrell, says it will invest $2 million to increase production of military footwear at its factory in Big Rapids, Mich.
The investment will fund the addition of 16,000 square feet to the company’s 75,000-sq.-ft. facility, which currently manufactures up to 1.1 million pairs of boots annually for the U.S. military.
The expansion — expected to wrap up by the first quarter of 2017 — should give a solid boost to the production of shoes for Wolverine’s Bates Footwear brand, which specializes in boots and shoes for armed service men and women.
Wolverine has become a vocal proponent of the Berry amendment, which requires all U.S. military apparel and footwear to be made in the USA. (Athletic styles had long been an exception but several footwear and apparel organizations and brands, most notably New Balance and Wolverine, have been advocating aggressively for the inclusion of the category.)
The Grand Rapids plant is where the firm produces its Berry Amendment compliant boots under the Bates line. The company also recently invested in its factory to produce 100 percent Berry-compliant Saucony running shoes, should the recently addition of athletic shoes to the Berry amendment stick.
In March, Wolverine announced that Bates was awarded a contract to manufacture temperate weather boots for the U.S. Marine Corps under a five-year U.S. government contract.
“All but approximately 70,000 pair of shoes manufactured in the Big Rapids facility are manufactured for Bates,” a spokesperson for Wolverine told Footwear News.
The new expansion will bring 10 employees to the facility — three transfers from Wolverine’s corporate office in Rockford, Mich., and seven new hires.
“This expansion allows our manufacturing facility to house all facets of the operation under one roof,” the spokesperson said. “Doing this then will free up 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of manufacturing space and will give our employees more elbow room.”