Made in Minnesota

Our state is becoming a hotbed for U.S.-made heritage products. Now we just need to find and train sewers to do the work.

Made in Minnesota: Faribault Woolen Mills, Red Wing Shoes, and Duluth Pack
Stephanie Colgan


RED WING SHOES: Setting the standard for work boots since 1905 DULUTH PACK: Canvas bags and outdoor gear since 1882PIERREPONT HICKS: American-made menswear from a newer Minneapolis-based company with a timeless aesthetic

This is more than a fashion trend. A social and economic shift is underway. A recent report from Boston Consulting Group predicts 5 million manufacturing jobs could be created in the United States by the end of the decade. In the sewing industry, there are two significant factors contributing to that demand, says Richard Beardsley, who runs CLG Enterprises, a contract sewing operation in south Minneapolis. “The standard of living in countries like China is rising so dramatically that it is driving prices up to compare with what can be done in the U.S., and the quality that has been standard in the U.S. is being recognized—finally—as important enough to pay money for it.”

Veteran Wisconsin shoe manufacturer Allen Edmonds feels the shift.

“Right now, it’s all about authenticity. People are taking a lot of pride in buying American goods,” says Jim Kass, vice president of manufacturing for Allen Edmonds. “We’ve got a base of operation. It’s our heritage; it’s what we do. A lot of companies are trying to figure out how to get back here, and it’s hard.”

Allen Edmonds employs about 500 people in Wisconsin, and more than half of them work on the manufacturing line. “Welt shoemaking is a craft-type manufacturing process. Cutting and sewing leather is not a talent that young people are really seeking to get into,” Kass says. As a result, Allen Edmonds spends four to six months training employees. Some jobs, such as fancy double-needle stitching, require even more extensive training, a cost that ultimately is added to the price of shoes.