My parents grew up through the Great Depression and learned a lot of hard lessons about the value of a steady job. Both of my grandfathers worked for country banks that were wiped out in the banking crisis, and so were their personal finances. My mother’s keepsake silver dollar, minted in her birth year of 1922, was finally needed in 1934 to buy bread for the family, bringing real life experience to the phrase “down to our last dollar.” My dad worked his way through college in North Dakota in the late 1930s, moved to Minneapolis after graduation without a dime in his pocket and, except for his service in WWII, worked for the same company for his entire career.
During the prosperity of the late 1990s, many Americans adopted a “free agent” attitude about their jobs. It was a heady time when “business casual” evolved to where guys dressed literally in running shoes for a quick escape out of the office. In venture capital hotspots, there was constant hopping from one start-up to another, and it seemed those opportunities would never dry up.
Fast forward to 2011 and a stubbornly persistent unemployment rate over 9%. Men’s attire has become more serious and that includes the shoes that they wear both to work and on weekends. This trend has been good for business growth at Allen Edmonds. For me and our leadership team here, the most gratifying part of that growth is the expanded employment that we’ve been able to offer to our community.
We’ve added over 120 new hires in Port Washington, WI since 2010. Many of them had been laid off from other jobs several months or even a couple years before joining us. It’s great to talk to them, see how much they value their jobs and hear about their plans for their families that now are realistic again. And, man, do they take their work seriously, which shows up in the quality of our shoes and our customer service. Nobody’s perfect, but the effort they expend to get as close as possible to perfection is truly inspirational.
On this Labor Day 2011, here’s a special toast to U.S. employees, to U.S. employers, to U.S. jobs, and to never taking any of them for granted.
Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation