Cliff Cox, plant manager of Chargeurs Wool, is an anomaly in the workforce. In an era when the average U.S. worker occupies 12 different jobs before age fifty, he’s held onto his job for four decades.
“When I interviewed here, I said that I was looking for something that I could stick with for the rest of my life. It actually happened,” said Cox, now 63, who applied for a position at Chargeurs in 1977 after he graduated with a mathematics degree. He was hired into a full-time position—the first and only one he’s ever had. Twenty years ago, he was promoted to his current role, and he intends to stay put—in large part, because he’s fiercely committed to American-made manufacturing.
“American-made is supporting our own country and communities, and we [as a nation] need to do that with priority,” said Cox. “I believe I need to prioritize taking care of my family, my neighborhood, and my country. As politicized as things have become today, [I] would think that there would be pushback in the market against companies that aren’t doing American-made,” he said.
For Cox, Farm to Feet provides an ideal fit as a business partner, product, and role model for other brands. “The Farm to Feet brand is me. I’m all about American-made,” he said.
Cox and his wife check product tags and try to not make a purchase if it’s not made here. Once, the couple spent an entire day looking for a U.S.A.-made clothes iron. After visiting 25 hardware and big box stores they settled on one manufactured in Germany. “At least I know that Germany’s corporate responsibility practices are good,” he said.
Cox's decisiveness manifests outside of manufacturing, too. As an active cyclist, Cox found himself surrounded by triathletes and, eventually, drawn to the holy grail, an Ironman. One problem: He’d never been in a lap pool and had no running experience.
“I bite off more than I can chew on a regular basis—and that’s a lot of fun,” said Cox in the documentary short, “Meet the Ironman,” which debuted at the Farm to Feet 5th Anniversary Celebration. The profile is featured in a three-part film series,“American Made,” produced by Farm to Feet to capture the people who are empowered by the local network created via American manufacturing.
Ironman Louisville was Cox’s debut triathlon. The heat and hills were brutal. After the swim, ride, and an 18-mile section of the marathon, Cox called it quits. Two months later, he completed Ironman North Carolina followed by Ironman Chattanooga. Eventually, he dove head first into ultrarunning races, too. His only race regret was the one time he didn’t wear Farm to Feet socks: Beyond his support of local manufacturing, Cox believes in the products that he helps to create.
When Cox and his wife recently visited the Mast General Store in Asheville, North Carolina, he grabbed a pair of Farm to Feet socks. It was the first time he’d seen the new packaging, which featured his photo and a short bio on his entry into Chargeurs Wool.
Cox showed the photo to the sales clerk and said, “This is me. These are the pictures and stories of real people on these socks—it’s not just a pitch in marketing.” Two of Cox’s colleagues from the mill are also celebrated via their own individual packaging. “It’s so neat to walk into a store and see your face on a product,” said Cox.