Bates, a brand of Rockford-based Wolverine Worldwide, makes Temperate Weather Combat boots for the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. Courtesy Wolverine Worldwide
Wolverine Worldwide will relocate its local shipping and receiving operations to another facility in the region by the beginning of next year.
Rockford-based Wolverine Worldwide, a maker of footwear and apparel, said yesterday that it will expand its Big Rapids plant by 16,000 square feet.
The new space will house its local shipping and receiving operations, which are currently located in Rockford.
Mike Jeppesen, president of the Global Operations Group and Wolverine Heritage Group at Wolverine Worldwide, said the company’s Big Rapids factory consists of 76,000 square feet, which is mostly used for manufacturing its footwear brands.
Jeppesen said the company decided to relocate the shipping and receiving functions to save time, but also to free up some space in the Big Rapids facility that was used for warehousing.
“That space can now be redeployed for manufacturing purposes,” he said.
Jeppesen said there are very few workers involved in shipping and receiving in Rockford, and all of those individuals will be offered jobs in Big Rapids.
“Moving the warehouse by itself isn’t going to create a lot of jobs or result in any layoffs, but it does enable us to hopefully hire some more people for the shop floor in the current factory,” he said.
The cost of the expansion is estimated at $1 million, according to Jeppesen, but he noted that amount is not final, because Wolverine is working with Consumers Energy to relocate power lines running across the property where the warehouse will be constructed.
The warehouse should be completed during the first quarter of next year.
Jeppesen said 90 percent of the shoes produced in Big Rapids are for the military.
He added that Wolverine is preparing for an increase in military shoe orders.
“We have seen a surge in demand since 2014,” he said. “We’ve seen a nearly 30-percent increase in military demand, and we expect further demand to occur.”
Andrew Fowler, VP and GM of Wolverine’s Bates brand, said there's also hope that Wolverine will soon pick up military contracts for athletic shoes.
Right now, the federal government is considering including athletic shoes under the Berry Amendment, which requires the military to purchase a number of American-made items, such as clothing and textiles.
If Wolverine eventually earns a contract to provide athletic shoes to the military, it plans to produce them in Big Rapids.