Sunday, January 30, 2011


I was delighted to read in a January edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of a company that makes shoes in Georgia while almost all other shoe companies out-source their labor to third world countries. Only 1 percent of the 2 billion pairs of footwear bought each year in the United States is made here.
Strangely, the owner of the company is an Iranian family. And the name of the company is Japanese, Okabashi. That means bridge between two mountains.

The aim of the company is to make flip-flops and sandals that feel good on the feet and are good for the feet. While companies are failing due to the recession, Mr. Irvani, according to the article, has added a line of spruced-up flip-flops sold at upscale gift shops, boutiques and resort spas such as Sea Island. These shoes have bangles, ribbons, and sparkles to dress them up. Each pair proudly wears a tag, Made In America.

I don’t wear flip-flops anymore; Can’t keep them on my feet. But if I wore them, I’d look for the Okabashi name because I believe we should support the companies that use American labor. The problem is: Where do we find them? Try   OR

Having come from a culture in the Deep South where men, women and children earned their wages at a mill of some kind back in the early 20th Century, I have great empathy for many here in Appalachia who lost their only source of income when the mills closed and moved their businesses overseas. The closings came suddenly and quickly, and some older workers did not feel capable of taking computer courses and training for a new trade. Peggy G. and her husband lost their jobs when a jeans factory closed. They fell from a secure standard of living to having to search and take any kind of job they could find. But they persevered. Peggy worked at a local nursing home while also cleaning houses. Their income was sliced in half when Peggy’s husband became ill with cancer. How sad to see their standard of living fall so far.

Just as the area was trying to recover from the loss of factories, construction and the real estate market bottomed out. This has brought on the present recession here and affected many families. Still we all go to Wal-Mart and buy Made in China, Made in Thailand, Made in Mexico clothes and goods for our homes. Do we have a choice? In many cases we do not, but I plan to search out companies that use American labor and reward them by purchasing their products when I can.

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