Shoemaker creates 250 jobs as it expands in Georgia

BUFORD, Ga. (AP) — Shoemaker Okabashi said Thursday it will hire 250 workers and invest $20 million to double production at its headquarters in suburban Atlanta.

Sara Irvani, CEO of privately held Okabashi, said in an email that the company would be able to manufacture more than 2 million pairs of shoes a year at its Buford factory once the expansion is complete in five years. Okabashi, one of the few mass-produced footwear companies in the United States, focuses on sandals made in part from recycled materials.

“Okabashi’s mission is to champion Made in the USA footwear in a sustainable way, and the importance of local manufacturing and sustainability has never been clearer,” Irvani wrote. She cited Georgia’s advantages in logistics and recruiting talent as reasons to expand into the state.

The company currently has 250 employees in Georgia. Production workers start at $16 an hour, and the company plans to hire 100 workers this summer.

The state will help train workers through its Quick Start program, said Amber Kasselman, spokeswoman for the economic development agency Partnership Gwinnett. Okabaski could seek various tax breaks, including an income tax credit that would allow him to deduct more than $1.5 million in state income tax over five years, provided workers earn at least $30,628 per year.

Irvani said the company will not seek a property tax abatement from Gwinnett County or Buford.

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