The last remains of U.S. shoe production by Dexter Shoe Co. will be gone by the end of September, as the firm plans to auction off equipment from its manufacturing plant.
The shoemaker, which shut down its Dexter, Maine, factory at the end of 2001, will try to sell several pieces of machinery at its Sept. 24 auction. The pieces include injection molding presses, polyurethane injection systems, a molding press, a laser cutter and other cutting equipment, and machinery from its warehouse and machine shop.
Dexter Shoe, established in 1957, announced in September 2001 that it would close its last Maine and U.S. facility by the end of the year, citing foreign competition. Dexter's products - street, outdoor, bowling and golf shoes - now are made entirely abroad, primarily in China.
The firm also within the past three years has shuttered plants in Milo, Skowhegan and Newport, Maine. During that time, some other shoe companies - including Franklin Shoe Co., G.H. Bass & Co. and Cole-Haan - have shut down New England-based operations as well.
At the time of the closure, Dexter Shoe said as many as 500 workers would be laid off as the shutdown date approached. The number has grown to 600-700 people, and most are being helped by a two-year, $3.2 million grant from the Department of Labor, said Robert Simpson, Dexter town manager.
The funds set up a transition center for the laid-off workers in Dexter, where people can get job training and career-planning assistance, Simpson said. He did not know how many former Dexter employees had been placed in other positions.
The fate of the Dexter Shoe sites in the immediate area still is up in the air. The Dexter town council voted in August to buy a 116,000-square-foot facility - which housed the company's carpenter shop and machine shop - from Dexter Shoe's parent company, Greenwich, Conn.-based H.H. Brown Shoe Co.
If the deal goes as expected, the space will be renovated and used to house new businesses, Simpson said.
Also available in Dexter are the shoe firm's former 600,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and a 104,000-square-foot warehouse, Simpson said.
Some warehousing operations still are active, but local officials do not know how long they will continue, he said.
``Dexter Shoe has some exceptional facilities, and we're hopeful the space will be filled,'' Simpson said. ``But with the national economic situation, the prognosis isn't good to fill it right away. There's nothing on the immediate horizon.''