Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Levi Strauss & Co. Chooses Bossier City

Levi Strauss (before 1902)
During the 1960s and 70s, the growing popularity of the casual look rapidly increased the demand for blue jeans. This fashion movement provided Levis Strauss & Co. with a period of rapid growth as the blue jean became more than a working man’s jean. During this period of rapid growth, Levi Strauss & Co. opened many plants throughout the United States. In the fall of 1969, it was announced that Levi Strauss & Co. would open its first plant in Louisiana.

The location for Levi-Strauss’s 32nd plant was right here in Bossier City on a five-acre site on Airline Drive near Douglas Drive and Melrose Ave. Groundbreaking for the 28,000 square-foot facility took place on Mar. 16, 1970. The Bossier City Industrial Development organization built the building and leased it to Levi Strauss & Co. The Cherokee Construction Co. of Shreveport expected to have the construction completed by the beginning of Aug. that year. The initial cost of the plant was approximately $180,000 and it contained $500,000 worth of machinery.

Job posting in the Shreveport Times, 1970.
Why did Levi Strauss & Co. choose Bossier City? Well, according to an article in the Bossier Banner-Progress published Nov. 27, 1969, “A spokesman for Levi Strauss said that the success of the Labor Registration Drive conducted by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce influenced the company’s decision to locate in Bossier City. The Labor Registration Drive was held with much enthusiasm through out the area with help from Plain Dealing, Haughton, and Benton. Some of these towns had volunteer men and women who maintained a registration desk for one week. Many of the churches and other organizations in the area also helped. The efforts registered over 13,000 persons.”

This “pilot plant” was expected to initially employ about 300 people, mostly machine operators with some office personnel and manual labor positions as well. Long-term goals for a permanent facility predicted employment estimates as high as 2,000. Initial plans for the Levi plant was to produce Levi’s pants for women, a marketing campaign known as Levi’s for Gals that launched in 1968.

Job posting in the Shreveport Times, 1971.
On Sep. 25, 1970, it was announced in the Shreveport Times that the Bossier City Levi Strauss & Co. production plant would officially operate as part of the firm’s Levi’s for Gals division starting on the first of Dec., along with the Tyler and Corpus Christi, Tx. plants. “Walter A. Haas, Jr., Levi’s president, said the move is an important step in the company’s divisionalization program and will help keep pace with LfG’s rapid expansion in the women’s sportswear field.”

In the Oct. 5, 1973 issue of the Shreveport Times, the Bossier Industrial Foundation and city officials announced, that Levi Strauss & Co. would cease operations in Bossier City, and Sondra, Inc. of New York City would take over the production facility with its ladies ready-to-wear line. In the same article, the writer states, “Expansion plans call for Sondra to increase the size of the operation on Douglas Drive by 25,000 to 30,000 square feet and hire 150 new employees, which will increase the annual payroll over the Levi total by some $250,000.”

Throughout its history, manufacturing has always contributed to the economic growth of Bossier Parish. With October being Manufacturing month it’s a great time to visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center to learn more about these and other manufacturers that operated here.

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