Made in the Midwest: Fox River Sewing Strong

Posted at: 11/13/2012 4:21 AM
Updated at: 11/14/2012 2:15 PM
By: Ellery McCardle

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- When it comes to making socks, some of the comfiest come from our grandmothers, who knitted them by hand.
But for more than a century, Fox River in Osage, IA has been making them on a mass scale by machine.

"There's a lot more to making a sock than people think. It's more than just knitting some yarn," said Larry Mork, production manager at Fox River.

It starts in a room where you hear thousands of needles sewing. Some machines have 112 needles all working together and it only takes a few minutes to create one sock.

More than 100 years later and Fox River is still sewing strong, now shipping socks to big box stores and mom and pop shops around the world.

Whether it's a thick or thin sock, the mill pumps out upwards of 50,000 pairs everyday.

Executive vice-president Jeff Lessard says many hosiery companies have gone out of business or left the U.S. altogether. But the company, with its iconic red heel and sock monkey, kept its workers in Osage.

"We're the greatest country on earth we've got to continue to be that way. We've got to have a manufacturing base so we can keep our people here, keep them employed and grow our country like we have in the past," said Lessard.

He says business has slowed over the past decade or so at the mill, but there's always a need for socks.

"We have a third generation of families here and a fourth we'd want them here," said Lessard.

By all indications, the company won't unravel anytime soon.

"I think we're prime right now for more manufacturing than we've seen in a long time," said Lessard.

After every sock is made it's pre-shrunk and pre-washed.

Fox River was originally founded in Wisconsin in 1900, but began operations in Osage in the 1970's.