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U.S. Shoe Business Is Booming--With Imports : New England Plants Closed, Workers Fired as Firms Use Cheap Foreign Labor

January 26, 1986|TOM MOONEY | Associated Press

When the factory opened, import restrictions were in place and the company was expanding its domestic shoe business. At its peak, 350 people worked at the plant.

But a year later, Reagan refused to reaffirm the marketing agreements that had restricted imports from Far East countries.

"It turned out to be a problem for the whole shoe industry," Bourret said. "It created a real opportunity for importers to come into this market."

700 Lose Jobs

By 1983, Bass factories in Jay and Rumford had closed, leaving 700 without jobs. The company consolidated its domestic manufacturing in Wilton and Berlin, N.H. They employ 1,100.

"We hope we've struck a balance between importing and domestic shoe manufacturing," Bourret said.

Reagan's refusal to renew the import restrictions was one reason Bass--and other U.S. shoe companies--stepped up their importing in 1981, Bourret said.

In 1984, 726 million pairs of shoes were imported, the ITC's Eckes said. Of that, 215 million pairs were for American companies like Bass that pay foreign companies to make their shoes.

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