ADAMSTOWN, Pa. — As labor costs rise in places like China and U.S. energy prices drop, many manufacturers have been rethinking where to expand production, and in some cases returning factory work to the U.S. But even if "Made in USA" is a priority, creating domestic manufacturing jobs is far from easy.
This is especially true for textile manufacturers who have a tough time locating highly specialized machinery. So if you want to pursue American-made clothing and accessories — and can't find the equipment in the U.S. — then what?
For America's oldest hat maker, the Bollman Hat Company, a commitment to U.S. manufacturing has meant tracking down one-of-a-kind equipment in China and trying to buy and transport roughly 150 machines — including 60 knitting machines — on shipping containers from Asia to Adamstown.
Moving the machinery to the U.S. will initially create about 40 jobs. Bollman has been operating in Adamstown for nearly 150 years — its first hats were transported on horse and buggy to the train station.
Bollman President and CEO Don Rongione is working to secure and transport the special knitting machinery that makes Kangol hats — including the cool golf caps worn by actor Samuel L. Jackson. The special machines were custom made in England in the 1930s and 1940s but are no longer produced. (In 2001, Bollman acquired the rights to make and distribute Kangol headwear that has been embraced by celebrities.)