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Capps Shoe Company supports troops and American Manufacturing February 20 2015

Local Military Shoe Manufacturer Supports Policy Change

Posted: Feb 03, 2015 11:16 PM EST

Gretna, VA - At a time when it seems like many manufacturing jobs are closing up shop and moving overseas, one local company is going strong and has hopes of growing.

 

Capps Shoes says they're all about supporting America, from the people they hire, to the products they make.  They are one of a small group of manufacturers that provides shoes for the United States Military.  Now, they're hoping a change in military policy could mean further expansion.

 

"It's a good feeling to be able to provide jobs to people, but it's also a good feeling to provide footwear to the soldiers," said owner Tom Capps.

    

Nearly 200 employees help make over 2,000 pairs of shoes a day.  Most of them are dress shoes purchased by the United States military, thanks to its "Buy American" rule.

 

"The Berry Amendment requires that all military procurement items are made exclusively in The United States, exclusively of American components," said Capps.

 

All footwear falls under the amendment, except athletic shoes.  So owner Tom Capps says he and the small handful of other American shoe manufacturers are hoping to convince the Department of Defense they have what it takes to fill the need.

 

"There's a move now by the senator in Maine and a few others to have the athletic shoes made in the United States and they should be," said Capps.

 

The change could mean a big boom to Capps and the local economy.

 

"We're very fortunate to be in an area where the people take pride in their work," said Capps  

 

And employees say they're happy to have Capps right here at home.

 

"Some of them are a one single mom, they have two little kids they have to support.  And there are married couples, they have a lot of responsibility.  So, they need these jobs," said employee Sallie Haskins.

 

Since last April new recruits have been required to use their footwear allowance to purchase American athletic shoes, but Capps says that rule is not strictly enforced.

 

A 2012 study by the American Apparel and Footwear Association found 98% of shoes purchased in the U.S. came from abroad.

 


Capps Shoe Company receives grant from Virginia tobacco commission July 03 2014

Lynchburg-based Capps Shoe Company has received a $120,000 matching grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization and Martinsville-based Genedge Alliance for the design and production of military style boots.

Capps’ main office and warehouse is in Lynchburg, but design and production of the new boots will take place at its Gretna factory.

Joan Moore, regional director for the economic development group Genedge, said the group is working with Capps on an innovative new design process. The number of jobs created from the project in Gretna and Lynchburg, she said, will depend on the buyers the company secures.

According to a news release from Genedge Alliance, Capps will use the grant to design and produce two boots for the Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

In the release, Tom Capps, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said he was “very pleased” the grant will support the development of new technology, “enabling the possibility of additional jobs not only for Capps Shoe Company, but for Pittsylvania County as well.”


The Shoe Industry: A Perfect Fit for Lynchburg July 03 2014

When you think of shoe capitals, certain places come to mind—New York City, Milan, Paris and even Holland with their wooden shoes. A city that likely doesn’t come to mind, however, is Lynchburg. That’s right: Our fair city has a history steeped in the world of shoes.


In the early 1900s, Craddock Terry Shoe Company was one of Lynchburg’s largest employers, one of the United States’ most faithful suppliers during World War II and the fifth largest shoe manufacturer and distributor in the world. That’s a pretty hefty tout for a city with only around 18,000 residents at the time, according to U.S. Census records.

Though Craddock Terry Shoe Company has since been replaced by the Craddock Terry Hotel, Lynchburg still has its foot in the shoe industry—with businesses like Consolidated Shoe Company, Riverside Runners and Capps Shoe Company keeping local and national shoe enthusiasts well-stocked in numerous styles.

Consolidated Shoe Company (CSC), established in 1898, is headquartered right in Lynchburg on Timberlake Road. Specializing in fashionable yet affordable footwear, Consolidated has six unique brands to its name, which cater to the individual styles of the typical CSC client.

“We focus more on individual brands and creating an experience around those brands that extend past the product into the lifestyle of the consumer. We used to be ‘jobbers’—we made products for other people. Now we create product for specific consumers in a niche market,” Amy Gallagher, Consolidated’s Director of Marketing, explained. “We have six brands that each own a different part of the market. There’s no cross over; everything has its own personality.”

Another local shoe distributor that is making leaps in the national market is Old Dominion Footwear. Located in Madison Heights, Old Dominion owns a 50,000 square foot facility which is responsible for distributing exclusive brands such as Duck Head Footwear, AquaDuck Waterproof Footwear, Lalla and Lalla Lew, a children’s line.

As for Lynchburg, it is also still keeping Craddock Terry’s military influence alive through Capps Shoe Company, located on Monticello Avenue. Capps, a lesser known shoe company to civilians, is the only shoe manufacturer in the area. With their manufacturing facility in Gretna and their headquarters in Lynchburg, Capps’ 200 employees produce approximately 2,000 pairs of shoes per day. The military influence comes from Capps being a primary manufacturer of men’s issue shoes and dress oxfords for the United States Army and United States Marine Corps, and women’s issue shoes for the United States Navy, Airforce and Army, as well as primary manufacturer for most of the pumps for PX’s (Post Exchanges) around the world.

“In addition to our military work, we also have five women’s branded lines,” Tom Capps, President of Capps, said. “We specialize in hard-to-fit feet and make over 100 sizes. That’s why we’re able to exist against imports—we’re able to fit a lot of people who couldn’t be fitted with imported shoes.”

Founded a mere 16 years ago in 1994, Capps has seen quite a few changes in a short time.

“We had a lot more domestic manufacturers when we started than now—we have less competition than we used to have,” Capps said. “We have developed a good reputation of quality in our customer base, specifically with the Department of Defense. We have received major contracts that have enabled us to maintain steady business. Because of that business, we’re now the largest employer in Gretna.”

While it seems like business is running smoothly and successfully the way it is, Capps says there are always areas in which to grow.

“We have converted a new section of the [Gretna] factory into a high-end manufacturing facility which will make women’s dress shoes totally out of leather, which will compete with Italian shoes,” he said. “The line is more fashionable than what we typically carry. We should launch the line under the Valley and Johansen labels in the fall.”

With all of the changes and growth in the local shoe industry, however, Capps still remembers where it all started.

“Lynchburg is a shoe hub for a city of its size. There are more shoe people here than any place I know of. All of the shoe companies have provided a lot of business and jobs in Lynchburg and Craddock Terry Shoe Company had a strong impact, not just locally, but on the shoe business throughout the country. At some point, we all started in some manner with Craddock Terry. They had a significant impact and influence,” he said.

Rounding out the veritable shoe powerhouse are businesses like Riverside Runners, which specializes in fitting the running community with the proper footwear, Western Ways, which caters towards the equestrian crowd, Hamilton’s Shoe Salon, which carries an assortment of men’s and women’s shoes, and Alta Shoe Shop, which specializes in casual footwear, work boots and even shoe repair.

Though it’s fun to travel to the Big Apple for a Carrie Bradshaw-esque shoe excursion, those of us who can’t live without our uniquely crafted, fashion-forward kicks needn’t look any further than our own backyard.


CAPPS Shoe Company honors employees of 20 or more years of service July 03 2014

CAPPS SHOE COMPANY, Gretna, Virginia, hosted a luncheon today at C & E Family Restaurant to honor employees with over twenty years of service, noting particularly the service of Mrs. Mary Moore, who was recently forced to retire due to illness. Mary will be missed greatly.

Tom Capps, President, and Tim Huffman, Director of Manufacturing, both emphasized that pride in workmanship, loyalty, and the experience of our dedicated employees, has been the primary contributor to the success of Capps Shoe Company.  When Capps acquired the factory in 1997 he was able to re-instate many of the former Craddock Terry employees, many of whom are still with the Company. The approximately 50 employees honored at the luncheon, of the 175 total, represent over 1500 years of shoe making experience, an impressive number in any type of business.

Capps Shoe Company manufactures uniform dress shoes for the U.S. Department of Defense for both men and women, and for all branches of the military. This year, Capps presence as an internet retailer in both uniform and civilian shoes has been growing rapidly. Dress and casual footwear in over 100 sizes and widths for both men and women may be purchased at usmadeshoes.com or at the Company’s outlet store at 300 Monticello Ave in Lynchburg.

Listed by years of service and not as pictured are those honored today:

20 Years
Sonya Hubbard

21 Years
Martha Hunt

22 Years
James Dodson
Jimmy Owen
Sheila Witcher
Chelene Anderson
Betty Bravo
John Motley Jr
Eva Hammack

23 Years
Donnell Hunt
Trudy Hedrick
Judy Edwards

25 Years
David Hunt
Sharon Moore

29 Years
David Fitzgerald
Ethel Dodson

30 Years
Peggy Cook

31 Years
Gracie Tanks
Betty Taylor

32 Years
Martha Ford

33 Years
Jeanette Davis
Gloria Davis
John Glover
Barry Carroll
Kim Hall
Carol Carter

34 Years
Vivian Hubbard

35 Years
Wanda Cook
Benjamin Farmer

37 Years
Luella Anderson
Hazel Tuck
Tom Capps

39 Years
Pauline Leonard
Ervin Waller

41 Years
Octavia Oakes
Brenda Motley

42 Years
Gloria Godfrey
Edith Calloway
Betty Towler
Sallie Haskins
Virginia Belcher

43 Years
Nancy Jordan

44 Years
Ira Polk Jr

50 Years
Hilton Maddox
Mary Moore

Should America Build a Strategic Shoe Reserve? July 03 2014

The U.S. military trusts American manufacturers to make missiles, fighter jets and nuclear submarines. But can they be trusted to produce safe sneakers?

America's vestigial shoe industry insists it can deliver. After years of debate, the Department of Defense has agreed to consider that possibility.

Under a provision of 1941 legislation known as the Berry Amendment, the Defense Department must buy boots, uniforms and certain other items that are 100% U.S.-made. It can make exceptions if U.S. manufacturers don't have the capacity to make what it needs, and has done so for athletic shoes needed for boot camp.

The Army, Navy and Air Force "allow members to select and wear the type and size of athletic shoe that provides the greatest comfort and reduces the potential for injury," regardless of where they are made, a Defense Department official said.

But now, under pressure from the domestic shoe industry and lawmakers, particularly those from Massachusetts, Maine and Michigan that have some of the country's few remaining shoe plants, the military is going to review its exemption for U.S.-made sneakers.

Would-be sailors in Illinois are given military-standard clothing, including custom-fitted New Balance running shoes. Rob Hart for The Wall Street Journal

Earlier this year, defense officials asked footwear makers to provide information about their ability to reliably produce the sneakers domestically. If the shoemakers convince officials that they have enough capacity to make the shoes in the U.S., the department may order that Army, Navy and Air Force personnel be outfitted with U.S.-made sneakers.

Shoemakers say that will add jobs both at their plants and at suppliers. The department said no decision has been made yet and it doesn't know when one will be.

New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. and Wolverine Worldwide Inc.both say they could provide 100% U.S.-made athletic footwear for the military. Others expressing interest include Capps Shoe Co., a maker of military shoes, and two producers of military boots: Wellco Enterprises Inc. and the Danner unit of LaCrosse Footwear Inc.

Rep. Mike Michaud, a Maine Democrat, has presented President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with black mesh New Balance athletic shoes in an effort to show them the possibilities of local production.

Orders from the military could create 200 jobs at New Balance, which employs about 2,900 in U.S. Rob Hart for The Wall Street Journal

"It's mind-boggling why the president doesn't do an executive order" requiring the Defense Department to buy U.S. made sneakers, Rep. Michaud said. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said: "The president keeps saying he wants to promote American manufacturing. Well, here's a chance."

A White House spokesman referred questions about the matter to the Defense Department.

Most U.S. shoe factories closed in recent decades as production shifted to Asia. Imports account for about 99% of the U.S. market, according to trade group Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America. The U.S. footwear industry employed only about 14,000 people as of mid-2013, down from more than 40,000 in 1997.

Boston-based New Balance, owned by James S. and Anne Davis, is the only U.S. maker of athletic shoes with large-scale production in the U.S. Its five U.S. plants in Massachusetts and Maine make about 25% of its shoes sold in the U.S.; the rest are imported.

New Balance spokesman Matt LeBretton said the company has spent more than $1 million on equipment and training to produce the midsole, which is normally imported. Orders from the military could create 200 jobs at New Balance, which employs about 2,900 in the U.S., and more at suppliers, he said.

The armed forces give recruits stipends of about $65 to $70 to spend on athletic shoes, though sometimes it makes them buy a particular brand. Mr. LeBretton said New Balance could supply shoes in that range. "This might actually save them a few bucks," he said.

New Balance does sell some of its imported or partially U.S.-made shoes through military outlets, but wants the military to buy 100% U.S.-made sneakers, which would give it an edge.

Late on a recent Tuesday evening, buses dropped off new recruits for boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes, just north of Chicago. The would-be sailors were presented with new military-standard clothing, from T-shirts, underwear and socks to a pair of custom-fitted New Balance running shoes that come in a box bearing an American flag.

Petty Officer First Class Andrew Purchase, 33 years old, watched Navy recruits try on running shoes. He has been running in New Balance since high school and said he likes the fit. It's "an added bonus," he said, when they are from an American company. "It's not 100% American-made, but most of it is," he said.

In the other room, Airman Noah Edwards, 19, who recently finished boot camp and was helping recruits determine their best shoe sizes, had a less philosophical approach to military running shoes. "I got issued what I got issued," he said.

Wolverine, based in Rockford, Mich., and known for its Hush Puppies and Keds brands, makes most of its shoes overseas.

But Wolverine has a plant in Big Rapids, Mich., which produces Bates combat boots, among other things. That plant could make sneakers, said spokesman David Costello. Sales of such shoes to the military would help Wolverine and other firms sustain a base in the U.S., he said.

Tom Capps, president and majority owner of Capps Shoe, in Lynchburg, Va., said the U.S. should avoid being entirely dependent on Asian shoe supplies in case it ever has "an altercation with the Chinese."

The military still has to be persuaded that U.S. shoe companies can ensure all recruits get the right fit and style. Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman, cited the stresses soldiers undergo during long runs at boot camp.

Rep. Niki Tsongas, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the domestic suppliers can provide a good range of shoes. For soldiers whose needs couldn't be met with American-made shoes, she said, waivers could be granted.

Orders from the military wouldn't bring the U.S. shoe industry back to its former glory, but they could be significant. Rep. Tsongas estimated that the military had spent more than $180 million on cash allowances for new recruits to buy sneakers since 2002.

Each year about 47,000 recruits come through the Naval Station Great Lakes, for example, and all of them get a pair of sneakers.

Petty Officer First Class Thelma Ruiz, a 38-year-old instructor who trains Navy recruits at the base near Chicago, prefers American-made shoes, but said what matters is that shoes fit well and perform. "Good shoes are good shoes," she said.

Write to James R. Hagerty at bob.hagerty@wsj.com and Ben Kesling atbenjamin.kesling@wsj.com