Cherokee Office of Economic Development · Cherokee by Choice.

Made in America

September 28, 2016


If one shoe can truly change your life, think what 50,000 pairs of footwear can do in a year. And that is just a starting point. The answer lies in Cherokee County, and it’s a Cinderella story of bringing jobs back to America. While the company could have chosen any place in the country to build its new U.S. SPEEDFACTORY, adidas chose Cherokee County. After all, corporate leaders have been hinting for more than a year that the world’s second-largest sportswear manufacturer wanted to serve the massive U.S. market more efficiently.  And with that, the Germany-based giant chose Cherokee for this U.S. operation.  In short, adidas is a frontrunner of bringing overseas jobs back to American workers. Think of all the years we’ve seen just the opposite. Yet, this move creates 160 local jobs, and adidas will be able to reduce shipping costs and get its products to consumers more quickly.

“For years our industry has been playing by the same rules manufacturing product remotely in Asia,” said adidas Group executive board member Eric Liedtke. But with a design studio in Brooklyn, NY and the new SPEEDFACTORY in Cherokee, Liedtke says adidas will be able to “make product for the consumer, with the consumer, where the consumer lives in real time.” It’s a goal the company has been working toward for years.
In late 2015, adidas piloted the SPEEDFACTORY in Germany. The prototype started with about 500 pairs of running shoes. Though it started smaller than what’s planned for Cherokee, the German prototype is providing a model for the 74,000-square-foot SPEEDFACTORY that is being built here in the Cherokee 75 Corporate Park, located two miles from I-75 in the southwest corner of the county. The U.S. SPEEDFACTORY is expected to be functional in the second half of 2017 and will produce at least 50,000 shoes that year. And there’s already talk of the factory doubling in size in the years to come.

All of that adds up to a pretty impressive coup for the county, especially when you consider Cherokee was competing with several other states for the project. But perhaps the biggest win is for county residents. Think of it: 160 new jobs in an environment that will look like something out of a futuristic movie.

Robots will do the heavy lifting. Their human counterparts will do the programming and keep the mechanics in check. Looking back, it’s almost ironic Georgia Tech’s original “walking robot” was given a pair of adidas sneakers as a reward for taking its first steps. Suffice it to say, that research and other advancements paved the way for projects like this. In this instance, it’s more cost-effective and efficient to program a robot to work with different fabric, change a model or adhere to a different combination of components than try to rapidly make those changes in a common factory setting. Humans will supply the higher intelligence.

“The global market is changing, and it’s about time,” said Marshall Day, board chair of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. “Think of all the products manufactured in huge factories and then shipped across the world. You’re going to see more emphasis on manufacturing goods closer to the consumer in factories that are so flexible, they can produce multiple products on a made-to-order basis. The adidas SPEEDFACTORY is a look into the future and at what’s certain to be a trend.”