Justin production nears 10 million mark

Thursday, May 24, 2007

During Justin Boot's 26-year presence in Cassville, local plant workers have produced 9,800,000 pairs of boots.

This interesting fact was just one of many shared by Bill Ledbetter, Justin Boots human resources director, during a quarterly luncheon event held Tuesday at the Roaring River Theatre and Convention Center. Ledbetter travelled to Cassville for the luncheon from Justin's headquarters in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Ledbetter said Justin Boots has enjoyed its association with Cassville.

"We're lucky to be able to come to a place where we found a good workforce," said Ledbetter, who also admitted that workers are harder to find now than when the company first arrived in Cassville in 1981.

"We hired Jim Latshaw and five supervisors in April of 1981," added Ledbetter. "Three of them retired from Justin and two are still working for us."

According to Ledbetter, average employment at Justin over the past two and a half decades has been around 239 employees. Currently, the plant employs 235 workers, and at its height of production, Justin employed 350 workers.

Ledbetter described those employees as "craftsmen." He said there are 180 steps in making one pair of boots. The average time it takes to make one pair is around four weeks, but that time can lengthen to six weeks, if it is a special order requiring extra stitching or inlays.

Since the first checks were handed out in 1981, Justin Boot has paid out $88 million in payroll to the people who actually make the boots.

"We're proud of that," said Ledbetter. "We've enjoyed it here, and are pleased to be a part of Cassville."

The Justin Boot plant in Cassville produces, on average, about 1,200 pairs of boots a day. The plant creates about 200 different styles of boots, not counting special orders. Justin Boot, as a whole, maintains 8,000 unique styles in its company database.

Cassville Justin Boot workers have had the opportunity to craft boots for many celebrities. President George Bush, country music stars George Strait, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley and actors Gene Autrey and Bo Derek are among those who have worn Justin Boots manufactured in Cassville.

The plant also, at one time, made all the boots for all the NFL cheerleading teams, including the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.

At the recent ACM Country Music Awards, Paisley was presented with a pair of tick-embroidered boots manufactured at the Cassville plant. The boots were made in honor of Paisley's new hit entitled "Ticks."

Ledbetter said the market for Justin Boots is strongest in the state of Texas. Other large markets include Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico.

"It's a southwest thing," said Ledbetter. "You'd love it to be a lot of other places, but unfortunately those other people change their minds a lot."

In addition to Ledbetter, Justin Boot had other representatives present at the luncheon. They included: Francis Smith, Cassville plant manager; Jeromy Williams, plant supervisor; Karen Snook, office manager; and Ashley May and James Adams from the Ft. Worth office.

Stan Kelley, president of the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce, thanked Ledbetter and the Justin Boot Co. for hosting Tuesday's quarterly luncheon.

"We here in Cassville and the chamber are very appreciative of Justin and the contributions they've made since 1981," said Kelley. "Justin has been a very valuable and viable part of Cassville and the Barry County community as a whole."

The event was the third "The Chamber: Today and Beyond" luncheon hosted by the Cassville Chamber. Over 75 people were in attendance. The next quarterly luncheon will be held in September.

For more information on the quarterly luncheons or any other chamber event, call the chamber office at 847-2814.

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