A few weeks ago, we got some great news about the Skowhegan-area Sappi mill.  It was announced that the mill would be getting over $400 million in upgrades.  In theory, those upgrades would allow the mill to remain viable for decades to come.

Now, we are hearing more good news about the Somerset County economy.

According to the KJ, New Balance has announced that they plan to their shoe factory on Walnut Street in Skowhegan.  When completed, the $65 million expansion would increase the number of jobs at the plant from 250 to about 450.

The expansion, which will cover about 20,000 square feet, is expected to be finished by the end of 2024.

Today, we consider New Balance to be a sneaker / athletic footwear company, but this was not always the case.  According to Wikipedia, the company was started Irish immigrant William J. Riley in Boston in 1906.  Originally, the company, which was known as the New Balance Arch Support Company, made shoe accessories.  Specifically, the company made arch support inserts for shoes.

Slowly, over the next few decades, the company shifted from producing shoe accessories to producing specially athletic shoes.  By the 1930, many pro-athletes were wearing New Balance footwear.

The really big break for the company, though, came in the 1950s.  That was when they introduced the "Trackster" and started marketing it to colleges (like the nearby MIT) and to the YMCA.

These days, the company makes running shoes, skateboarding shoes, clothing, and more.

The announcement is just the latest great news for the region's economy.  In addition to the expansion of the Sappi Mill, construction is currently underway on a whitewater park and the renovation of the old Solon Manufacturing Mill.

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