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Handful Bra plans to start Oregon manufacturing soon



Handful Bra has been based in Tigard since its founding in 2006, but the team, made up of (from left to right) Cary Goldberg, co-founders Tina Thede, Jennifer Ferguson and Jody Filkins, announced in May that it plans to bring production of their sports bras to Oregon for the first time.
Suzanne BonamiciA Tigard company has caught the eye of Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.

The Oregon Democrat met Monday with Jennifer Ferguson, the founder and CEO of Handful Bras. The company announced last month that it would be moving production of its designer sports bras from China to Oregon.

“It was fabulous,” Ferguson told The Times after the meeting. “It was such an honor for Congresswoman Bonamici to acknowledge us and our hard work.”

Since it started in 2006, the company has had its athletic bras, tank-tops and T-shirts made at a plant in Quanzhou, China. But plans are to move production to a factory in Salem as soon as the company can raise the $50,000 in moving costs.

Bonamici met with Ferguson in Beaverton as part of a way to draw attention to three bills Bonamici is announcing, which she says will help promote American manufacturing.

“More and more companies are beginning to see the advantages of moving manufacturing back to the United States,” said Bonamici in a statement before Monday’s meeting. “Handful is proving that it can be done. The ability to directly oversee your production line, improved product quality, and the Made in America label are all advantages.”

Moving production closer will help Handful roll out new products, Ferguson said, and improve quality control.

Important to people’

The decision to move manufacturing back to the U.S. isn’t a simple one, Ferguson said, but it’s important to do.

“We want to show people that while it can be difficult to move it locally, don’t stop searching and finding a way,” she said.

 Handful’s move to Oregon is financed through a special pre-order campaign. Customers can pre-order new products, which will help offset the cost of the move.

The campaign has only three weeks left to raise some $30,000.

“If not, we’re basically dead in the water,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said that the campaign was a way to raise the money, and gauge public opinion about domestically manufactured products.

“This is important to people,” said Ferguson. “People find the tragedies abroad unacceptable and are applauding locally made products.”

Ferguson said the company’s decision was reinforced after eight textile manufacturers were killed in a fire in Bangladesh in May and more than 1,000 people died in a building collapse in April.

Three bills could bring more jobs home

Bonamici said she is working on an agenda to reward companies for creating jobs locally, instead of overseas.

“…(Moving production to Oregon will) allow our management team more direct access to the manufacturing process, resulting in the highest quality product for our customers,” Ferguson said.

Bonamici’s ideas were in the right place, Ferguson said.

“It’s great as a local business to see a congressperson out ‘walking the talk,’ ” she said. “She is not just talking about it, she is meeting with people who are out there working hard and seeing what is important for us and why we are doing this.”

For a small businesses, the allure of having your products made overseas is too enticing, Ferguson said.

“You reach out and they have programs in place to do it more affordably,” she said. “We need to bring those skills back to U.S. and help people go into those fields.”

Making products locally is more expensive, about three times the cost of Asian-produced clothing, Ferguson said, but Bonamici has legislation in the works meant to encourage U.S.-based manufacturing.

One bill, the “Bring the Jobs Home Act” would provide businesses with a tax credit worth 20 percent of the expenses incurred by relocating a business to the United States. Another, the “Make it in America Manufacturing Act” would establish grants for state and regional manufacturing partnerships to provide loans and help small manufacturers export products and a third, the “Advancing Innovative Manufacturing Act,” or AIM, would establish pilot projects to develop public-private partnerships for the promotion of advanced manufacturing.

Ferguson said that, if passed, Bonamici’s bills would help to her company’s cause.

“We will be watching those bills closely,” Ferguson said. “I hope those go through the way that she is pushing for, because they would be a great support for us.”

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