'Made in America' movement creates rebirth in sewing industry

10:34 PM, Mar 6, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - The demand for the "Made in America" tag has led to a boost in the sewing industry and that has meant a rebirth of a unique program offered at Dunwoody College and Technology.

Inside the Minneapolis school, 18 students are doing something that has not been done in about seven decades.

"Dunwoody had a program in the 1940s and it was called a professional coat making program," said Debra Kerrigan, Dean of Workforce and Continuing Education at Dunwoody.

In short, sewing has made a comeback.

"We're seeing a re-shoring of American production," said Jen Guarino, CEO of J.W. Hulme Company.

J.W. Hulme is a St. Paul-based company that makes high quality handbags, luggage and briefcases.

"All of us are growing and all of us are running out of skilled labor," she said.

What was once delegated to some far off land is no longer.

Two things changed she says. The costs of outsourcing went up and the quality of the product went down.

"We'd love to hire five more (workers) right now and we can't find them," she said.

After finding out other companies like hers were having the same problem, she formed a coalition with other Minnesota businesses. They partnered with Dunwoody. In January, Dunwoody started training people to cut and sew, something many take for granted.

"We have several students employed already," Kerrigan said. "They're not even done."

And others, like student Edward Johnson, already have interviews. He will make anywhere from $12 to $18 per hour. It is a dramatic turnaround from just a few months ago.

"I came into the class homeless," Johnson said.

But he also entered the classroom with creativity and ambition, earning a scholarship to get into the 22-week program.

"You can't just wallow in self pity and say, 'I can't do this or there are no jobs here or I don't want to work a restaurant job because it doesn't pay enough,'" Johnson said.

He's patching his life back together by joining the "Made in America" movement.

For more information or to register for the program, go to www.dunwoody.edu or call Debra Kerrigan at 612-381-3306.

Dunwoody is located at 818 Dunwoody Boulevard, Minneapolis, MN 55403.

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