I grew up in a house that was located near the corner of 160th and Farmington Road in Beaverton, Oregon. One of our many neighbors was the Hauth family. A family of 7 boys.
With 8 kids in our family and the Hauth boys, there was plenty of trouble and some great memories to share, but I’ll save that for my memoir.
One of the Hauth boys, Jerry has worked at NIKE forever. His 35+ years includes opening most of NIKE’s footwear factories around the world. Jerry has lived and worked in Yugoslavia, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Brazil, Taiwan and India.
I’ve known Jerry my entire life. I grew up with him and his brothers. I was the babysitter for his kids when he was first married, and of course we’ve stayed in touch while working at NIKE. So when Jerry emailed me to say he was coming to China for some factory visits and would I like to meet up with him and his team, I, of course, jumped at the chance.
Meredith, our youngest daughter was spending July with us in Shanghai. This fall she enters her final year at the University of Oregon School of Journalism. She’s writing her thesis on sustainable manufacturing so with Jerry’s offer I made it a family trip and Greg, Meredith and I headed to the cities of Qingdao and Ningbo, China to meet up with a friend from the old neighborhood.
We flew from Shanghai to Qingdao where we were met by a van that took us directly to the first factory where NIKE footwear has been manufactured for close to 20 years. Jerry met us at the door and introduced us to his team who traveled with him from NIKE and the team from the factory. We learned about the running products produced at that location and took a tour of the facilities. Always impressive to see, as I’ve been to factories before, but it was really exciting to see it with Greg and Meredith and to have Jerry as our expert tour guide. We learned and witness how the manufacturing process has evolved and changed over the years and the team in Qingdao continues to look for ways to make improvements in the process.
After the tour we were led back to the conference room where lunch had been set out. Big Macs and Pizza for the Americans and bento, boxed lunches for the locals. Not feeling all that adventurous and concerned after reading recently that McDonald’s in China was using questionable meat products and not sure what the “pepperoni” was, I chose the bento box. I picked out and ate the rice and the cooked, green vegetable, bok choy. Greg went with the Big Mac and I think Meredith had a bottled water.
Before getting into the van, Meredith and I headed to use the facilities. As we entered, I was quickly reminded that I’m not in Shanghai anymore. In Shanghai, I’ve identified all the best bathrooms in the city and have scheduled any market travel around always using the bathrooms at the IAPM mall. They’re fabulous.
Meredith and I both stopped and stared into the open stalls in the bathrooms at the factory. Staring back at us was the common bathroom fixture of China. We both stood there and flashing through my mind was the fact that we had not used the “facilities” since leaving our apartment some six hours earlier and we would be in a van for 2 hours before arriving at our hotel.
Meredith, with all her confidence says “let’s do this.” So I rolled up my pant legs and headed in. I asked over the wall, “do we face the door or the back wall?” Meredith, not knowing the answer but having spent a lot her childhood camping with family and friends, coached me by stating, “face the door, squat like you’re in a NIKE Training Club class and just go.” All good. I left that pair of shoes in the hotel room.
The next morning we flew to Ningbo, China to see our flyknit manufacturing process. The drive to the factory was beautiful as the factory is located in the rolling hills and green countryside. The manufacturing process? IMPRESSIVE. And for reasons I’m sure you can understand, I was not allowed to take any photos.
The van took us back to the city of Ningbo where Greg, Meredith and I took China’s own, innovative fast speed, “bullet” train to Shanghai. A great way to travel. Easy, clean and more room than an airplane seat. I highly recommend it.
A quick trip to meet up with a friend from the old neighborhood. A long time NIKE employee. A historian of footwear manufacturing. Sharing his knowledge with a college student looking to the future.
We’ve come along way from Farmington Road. Thanks Jerry.