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Updated: May 24, 2021

New Balance's US manufacturing chief bullish on drive-thru job fairs, retail's rebound

Photo of a smiling sneaker mascot Courtesy / New Balance Inc. At New Balance's drive-thru job fair in Skowhegan earlier this month, this sneaker mascot greeted vistors.

New Balance Athletics Inc., a Boston-based sports footwear and apparel brand with 700 employees in Maine, recently held a drive-thru job fair in Skowhegan as the company seeks to fill openings at its factories in Norway, Norridgewock and Skowhegan. Mainebiz caught up with Raye Wentworth, the company's Skowhegan-based director of domestic manufacturing, to find out more about the drive-thru concept and her business outlook for 2021.

Mainebiz: How many job openings is New Balance currently looking to fill in Maine?
Raye Wentworth: New Balance has approximately 100 manufacturing production positions open across our three factories in Norridgewock, Norway and Skowhegan in central Maine. We continue to see great consumer demand for our Made in the USA athletic footwear and are proud of our longstanding commitment to our Maine factories. 

Raye Wentworth
Courtesy / New Balance Athletics Inc.
Raye Wentworth is director of domestic manufacturing at New Balance Athletics Inc.

MB: What sparked the idea for the drive-thru job fair and how does it work? 
RW: We were looking for a creative way to engage with local talent and introduce them to New Balance and our supervisory team. The drive-thru job fair offered interested candidates a convenient and safe opportunity to learn about a career in manufacturing in Maine and hear directly from some our associates about their experiences.
MB: How successful was the most recent event?
RW: We had a great response to the job fair and had an opportunity to meet with talented candidates, many of whom we have either invited back or already extended offers. This is just one of the investments we are making to increase our pipeline of talent in Maine. We encourage anyone who might be interested to check out New Balance Career opportunities [online] and apply. We will invite qualified candidates to an interview within three business days. We’re very open to hiring candidates without specific manufacturing experience, and we have seen great success from associates who have transferred their skills from different industries and work areas.
MB: What jobs are the hardest to fill and why? 
RW: Our goal is to bring in production workers to become our future team leaders, so we are very focused on development and growth opportunities throughout an associate’s career with New Balance.

MB: Any new incentives you're offering candidates this year  — and which ones are working? 
RW: New Balance offers one of the most comprehensive benefit packages in central Maine with schedule flexibility as well as tuition and fitness reimbursement opportunities.

MB:How is business so far this year and what's your outlook for the rest of 2021? 
RW: We anticipate that 2021 will be a significant growth year for the brand as retail globally continues to reopen, and our ecommerce business remains strong.

MB: What lessons or experience from the pandemic will you continue to apply going forward? 
RW: The pandemic has emphasized the importance of New Balance’s strong culture of teamwork and collaboration, which will continue to be part of our company’s foundation for success.

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