The Defense Department has awarded New Balance a $17.3 million contract to provide athletic shoes for military personnel entering basic training, according to an announcement Thursday by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

The contract is expected to provide work for nearly 1,000 people at New Balance manufacturing plants in Norway, Skowhegan and Norridgewock. 

“It’s great news for the town,” Norway Town Manager Manager Dennis Lajoie said Thursday night. He said he knew the contract was in the works earlier this year and was glad to hear it had been approved.

The company operates a factory outlet store on Route 26 in neighboring Oxford. 

According to the announcement, members of the Maine delegation fought for the inclusion of a provision in the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that required the Department of Defense to consider athletic footwear subject to the Berry Amendment by providing initial entry service members with American-made athletic shoes upon arrival at basic training.

The Berry amendment, passed in 1941, requires the U.S. military to provide its personnel with American-made equipment and uniforms to the greatest extent possible. Despite this long-standing law, and despite the fact that it issues similar Berry-compliant items such as combat boots and service uniforms, the entire Department of Defense has not previously issued new recruits athletic footwear that is compliant with the Berry Amendment.

New Balance secured one of three contracts awarded by the Department of Defense for American-made athletic footwear under the provision. The contract, awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency, contains a base performance period of 18 months, with an additional 18-month option contract clause.

The New Balance manufacturing plant in Norway. (Google Earth photo)


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