Wolverine Worldwide sells Big Rapids factory

Wolverine Worldwide employees unload the raw materials to be measured and checked for imperfections before being sent to the next station for cutting. This is the first stage in making boots and shoes. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — Wolverine WorldWide has announced the sale of its Big Rapids factory along with its U.S. Department of Defense contracts.

On Sept. 29, the company announced the sale of assets associated with its United States Department of Defense (DoD) contract business and the transfer of outstanding DoD contracts to Original Footwear.

Original is a Tennessee-based footwear manufacturer specializing in products for the Department of Defense under the Altama brand. The company also owns Original S.W.A.T and Ro-Search brands.

Because Original qualifies as a small business under Small Business Administration regulations, the Big Rapids factory is expected to be able to compete for a significant number of contracts not available to “large” corporations like Wolverine Worldwide, according to a press release on the sale. The sale was effective Friday.

Wolverine Worldwide’s Big Rapids factory, at 1005 Baldwin St.,  is one of the largest producers of footwear to the U.S. military. Over the last several years, the company has invested significantly in the factory and its future, through facility expansion and machinery.

“The sale to Original Footwear will provide the opportunity for the Big Rapids factory to compete for Department of Defense contracts set aside for small businesses,” said Blake Krueger, Wolverine’s chairman, CEO and president, in a statement. “We firmly believe that the sale of the Big Rapids factory and the DoD business to Original Footwear is in the best interest of the Big Rapids operations. With new ownership, we feel the factory is better positioned to win additional contracts that will retain important manufacturing jobs for the community.”

As part of the sale, Original Footwear will become a footwear supplier to Wolverine Worldwide for certain products currently made in the Big Rapids factory. Wolverine will retain the Bates brand and will continue to operate the Bates civilian and military exchange business.

Wolverine’s other brands include Merrell, Sperry, Keds and Hush Puppies.

No details were made available about the sale price or value of the contracts.

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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