Commerce Secretary Philip M. Klutznick, an ardent campaigner for President Carter, yesterday announced the awarding of a $2.2 million grant to establish an American shoe center in Philadelphia. The announcement came less than three weeks before the Pennsylvania primary.
In an address before the Greater Philadelphia Partnership, a consortium of community and business leaders, Klutznick stressed the cooperation between his department and the American footwear industry to promote business and establish a shoe center.
"This decision to fund the center fulfills a long-standing commitment by the Carter Administration and the Commerce Department, in particular, to a sound competitive domestic shoe industry and to the preservation of jobs within that industry," Klutznick said.
"This is the latest and by no means the last initiative that we will be taking in concert with the private sector to help make American industry more competitive," Klutznick said.
A Commerce Department spokeswoman yesterday said that the decision to locate the center in Pennsylvania wasn't political despite the announcement's nearness to the state's planned April 22 primary.
"That's just wrong," the spokeswoman said. "The center site was selected by the industry itself. Philadelphia was their first choice."
She said that criteria such as the city's tax structure, accessibility to transportation and quality of city services were factors used to determine the center's location.
The shoe center will be a nonprofit technical services organization that will rely membership dues and other income to operate. The Commerce grant was a one-time payment, according to a Commerce Department statement.
The center is intended to assist the shoe industry by providing technical assistance, managerial help and information. Personnel will test methods of determining product performance, conduct research and development studies, provide technical training for plant workers and plant performance audits, and perform library research.
Membership in the shoe center will be open to domestic footwear manufacturers and retailers and organizations and individuals connected with the footwear industry.
Funding of a shoe center is part of Commerce's Footwear Revitalization Program started two years ago in response to the President's request that Commerce help the domestic footwear industry keep in step with rising footwear imports.
During his speech, Klutznick said that protectionism is not the solution to the problems of the American economy including the footwear industry.
"The answer is new and improved products, higher productivity, better management," Klutznick said.
One recent study said that shoes from less-developed countries such as Korea and Taiwan cost almost 24 percent less than domestic equivalents.
Footwear imports last year amounted to $2.9 billion in 1978, according to Commerce Department figures.