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New Balance 'Overjoyed' With Advance of Military Footwear Amendment

BANGOR, Maine - A Maine manufacturer is applauding the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee's approval of an amendment that would require the Department of Defense to procure American-made athletic footwear for its troops.

The amendment proposed by independent Sen. Angus King, a member of the committee, is part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, and directs the DOD to treat athletic footwear for troops as part of the uniform.

That would bring sneakers, and similar garb, under the provisions of the 1941 Berry Amendment, which requires that boots and apparel for U.S. troops be American-made.
"It's a great opportunity for New Balance, and other folks who will make shoes here," says Matt LeBretton, a spokesperson for the last remaining athletic shoe company in the U.S., New Balance, which has factories in Maine. "But, really, it signals that Congress - following the lead of Sen. King and Sen. [Susan] Collins - understand that making things in America, and making things in Maine, matters. So we're really overjoyed by the outcome."

Republican Sen. Susan Collins has proposed similar legislation, as has Maine 2nd District Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin.

However, while the language in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act mirrors a provision in the House version of the legislation, King says the language is in jeopardy.

“There is a move by the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank in Washington, to strike Congressman Poliquin’s amendment from the bill,” he says.

Poliquin’s amendment is identical to King’s. The language is aimed at giving New Balance, which has facilities in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway, the ability to compete with other American manufacturers of athletic footwear for the athletic shoe contracts.

The defense bill faces further votes.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.