Every once in a while, I see stories on the Web about U.S companies that still make some product that I had assumed had moved to China (or some other lower-cost location) years ago. That happened again this weekend, with this story from the Gwinnett, Ga., Daily Post. The story is about Okabashi Brands Inc.'s injection molding plant in Buford, Ga., which molds plastic slip-on shoes.
The Buford factory is one of the few places in the United States where shoes are still being manufactured. “We get a sense of pride out of making our own products,” said Kelly Schmidt, who is vice president of sales for Oka B. With all of its machines, the factory can produce a total of 15,000 shoes a day during its peak manufacturing periods. Fall production of the Oka B shoes will pick up in mid-July. Each season, sales of the Oka B brand, which was introduced two years ago, have continued to grow. “Everyone just loves the shoes,” Schmidt said. The appeal of the shoes is a combination of two factors. “They're comfortable and they're cute,” said Naomi Wakatake, the chief designer for Oka B.According to the story, the shoes are molded from PVC. Keeping up with the latest styles and colors is essential: "The company's employees get inspiration for new colors and styles from customer feedback and by keeping a close eye on the fashion world. “We look at the runways, then do a reality check,” Schmidt said. The newspaper's Web version of the story includes a nice photo of workers on the production line, putting finishing details on the company's thongs. I enjoy visiting factories like this, but for now I'll just appreciate their version of the plant tour.