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With Biden’s ‘Buy American’ in the Spotlight, Keen Is Expanding Made-in-the-USA Production on Both Coasts

After President Joe Biden fueled new conversations about Made in America this week with an executive order aimed to boost domestic manufacturing, Keen is stepping up its production on both coasts.

The brand said today it would increase its Portland, Ore. production by 26% after seeing strong demand for its “American Built” utility boots and hikers.

On the opposite side of the country, Keen is diving deeper into the sock business through an expanded partnership with Nester Hosiery, a company based in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The manufacturer, which has worked with Keen for 14 years, will now make socks for Keen’s casual and utility brands, in addition to its outdoor segment.

“Built in America has never been more important,” said Erik Burbank, VP of the Keen Effect. “We’re excited to increase the number of boots we build in our Portland factory. We continued to invest in technology to ensure the facility is state-of-the-art and our talented team puts heart and soul into every pair of boots and sandals they assemble.”

The expanded relationship will ensure that Keen’s socks continue to be made in America, Burbank said. “Keen is one of our longest standing partners and we share the same core values,” said Kelly Nester, Nester Hosiery CEO.

Biden’s executive order intends to raise local content requirements and revise the definition of “Made in the USA” products, as well as make it more difficult for federal agencies to purchase imported items.

“With this order, President Biden is ensuring that, when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars, they are spent on American made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts,” read a statement from the White House.

A number of notable companies continue to take pride in their American-made products — and in some cases, like Keen, are making bigger commitments. New Balance, for example, is poised to open its “Factory of the Future’ in Massachusetts this summer. (It also closed a Boston manufacturing facility in late 2020.)

Overall, only a tiny fraction of shoe production remains in the U.S. — 99% of all shoes in the U.S. are imported, with 2.5 billion pairs of shoes shipped to American shores in 2019. President and CEO Matt Priest explained that, in general, “Buy American” has a “limited impact on our industry — not a ton of pairs and/or applications where footwear is involved.” — With contributions from Samantha McDonald

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