BY TARA BOZICK
Work It, SoVa
GRETNA — Workers in Gretna are busy making men’s oxford dress shoes for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps now that Capps Shoe Company Inc. landed a contract for up to $27.8 million with the U.S. Department of Defense’s logistics support agency.
“Oh, it’s great news,” said plant manager Tim Huffman.
A week ago, the Defense Logistics Agency awarded the contract with a one-year base term of $6.7 million. If all three one-year additional options are exercised, then the total would be $27.8 million, said DLA public affairs specialist Tonya Johnson.
Huffman said this would keep the Lynchburg-based company’s 160 employees — 145 in Gretna Industrial Park — working for another four years.
Capps also makes women’s oxford dress shoes for the Army, Navy and Air Force on a five-year contract awarded in 2010 that brought employees back to work after temporary layoffs. Receiving the men’s contract in time prevented more temporary layoffs.
Now, employees are busy cranking out more than 1,600 shoes a day for the military while also filling private orders. Factory equipment buzzes as shoes make it down the assembly line. The insoles bear the “Capps” name and declare “Made in U.S.A.”
“I love it,” said 35-year-old Herman Witcher of Gretna. “ … It’s kind of fun making them.”
Witcher, who worked the staple side lasting machine Wednesday, feels glad to provide shoes for the military.
“They’re helping me out, too — keeping me in work,” the employee of four years said.
Deborah Moore of Gretna, who’s worked at the facility for 14 years, said contracts mean job security.
“It helps us all have a job,” Moore said. “We were worried about not having one if we didn’t get a contract. It helps everyone.”
Yet, Capps, which owns the Johansen brand, is finding ways to supplement its contracted business through Internet sales and new product development, Huffman said.
When customers purchase shoes online for direct shipment, the Gretna team makes them to order. Capps has the ability to digitize shoe patterns and send data to an automated cutting machine. The computer-aided design room also helps Capps develop its own products or make prototypes for its partners.
“This will help develop new business for the future,” Huffman said.
Capps has owned the Gretna facility since 1997. For more information, visit www.usmadeshoes.com.