By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE - City native Edgardo “Egui” Campos graduated from Greater Lawrence Technical School in 2001 planning to embark on a career in the auto body industry. That lasted a short time, until he was laid off, and his mother, New Balance worker Rosa Rosado, told him he should apply at the 5 So. Union St. factory.
“They offered me a job and I decided to stay,” said Campos, who is just days short of celebrating his 11 year anniversary with New Balance. Campos worked seven years in packaging before becoming a materials coordinator for New Balance, housed in the city’s historic Ayer Mill building overlooking the Merrimack River canal.
But recently the 30-year-old bachelor stepped into the global spotlight becoming one of New Balance’s on-the-job models for its ever-growing “The Makers” marketing campaign.
Instead of using professional athletes or models, New Balance highlights their own loyal employees that work daily manufacturing and distributing athletic and walking shoes.
New Balance is the only athletic shoe manufacturer that makes its shoes on United States soil. The company has been committed to doing so for the past 75 years.
In “The Makers” campaign, Campos and other New Balance workers are featured in short video clips competing against workers from other U.S. factories. But since no one other sport shoe company makes its product here - there isn’t anyone to compete with in the United States and the workers essentially vie against no one.
The message was designed to encourage other companies to join New Balance in its commitment to American craftsmanship and domestic manufacturing, according to officials. In Campos’ clip, he’s playing air hockey with no opponent. He dominates the table with a winning goal.
“Our materials and goods are sourced domestically and that, combined with the commitment to excellence by our factory associates, allows New Balance a unique opportunity that sets us apart in the marketplace,” said Brad Miller, New Balance Enduring Purpose Manager.
Campos is one of the 220 New Balance factory associates responsible for the cutting, stitching and assembling of athletic shoes in the Lawrence plant. Specifically, his job is to make sure the materials needed to making the trademark shoes are available every day for the production line workers.
With a giant smile and a friendly disposition, Egui was one of the 13 Lawrence workers who volunteered to represent New Balance in The Makers campaign. “He is very personable. He has a passion for New Balance and he’s comfortable in front of the camera,” said Brendan Melly, New Balance’s Lawrence factory manager.
Egui is proud that not only are New Balance athletic shoes made in America - they are also made in his hometown of Lawrence. His pride and success in his job are clearly evident to others, especially job seekers.
“People are always asking me how they can get a job here,” Campos said.
Melly, the Lawrence factory manager, echoes similar sentiments. On a recent tour of the factory floor, where workers were making 990 style New Balance shoes, Melly notes the workers are both proud of what they do, what they create and where they do it - in Lawrence.
“These people bleed New Balance. It’s pretty unique and amazing,” said Melly, a US Army veteran who now lives with his family in Reading.
Many of the workers are blood relatives, who have recommended family members for jobs. “They feel it’s important to continue making things in America,” Melly said.
In the factory, every 22 1/2 seconds, an athletic shoe part moves from one worker’s hand to another. Workers wear safety googles and have adjustable benches. An alarm sounds periodically, signally to workers its time for a short health stretch at their work stations. Everyone is wearing New Balance shoes as they work. The emphasis on improvement is constant which leads to great morale in the factory, Melly said.
“Every single day we ask, ‘How do we get better tomorrow,’” he said, noting he’s in constant communication with his workers.
Adding to the workers pride is the fact that even in the recent economy, one of the worst since the Great Depression, there have been no layoffs at New Balance. The New Balance factory, the former Ayer Mill, originally opened in October 1910 to spin and die yarn.
Campos, when asked his future plans in the company, said for now he wants to continue working as a materials coordinator and learning everything he can about his job. He is both proud and somewhat amazed by what and his co-workers do.
“You’d be surprised what it takes to make a pair of sneakers. All the little pieces and details,” he said.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.