We've seen major local employers like Weather Shield and Wausau Paper lay off hundreds of workers within the last year. Finally, some good news for the the north central Wis. economy.
Business is literally flying off the shelves at Weinbrenner Shoe Company. The Merrill shoe manufacturer makes 900 shoes a day, now six days a week.
"We're having to work Saturdays to catch up to make sure we can provide the shoes on time for our customers," president Patrick Miner said.
"There's about 100 operations on a pair of shoes and it's all hand," said Craig Seis, the plant's superintendent of manufacturing. "So a lot of hard work."
Demand is up 30 percent this December and the company just renewed its five year, $68 million dollar contract with the Dept. of Defense.
The increase is twofold. The products' quality and cost has become more competitive with foreign brands. "We're starting to see an explosion in demand for made in the USA footwear," Miner said.
As manufacturing jobs make a comeback, the Weinbrenner model fits the build, as it specializes in occupational shoes.
"The local worker now is expected to wear safety toe footwear," Miner said.
Fashion is also driving the uptick in production. "What's old is new again," Miner said. A roofer boot from the 1940s is suddenly popular today.
"We have a backlog now of about 25,000 pairs," he said.
Their hands may be full, but it will help grow this local economy. Twenty people have already been hired and the overtime pay will give everyone some extra money to spend this holiday season. Miner says more people will be added by the end of next year when they bring in a new machine.
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