Auburn Leather Shedding One of its Divisions, No Layoffs Expected

Apr 9, 2018

Auburn Leather President Lisa Howlett doesn't anticipate any layoffs with the pending sale of its leather laces division.
Credit Lisa Howlett

One of Logan County’s oldest manufacturers plans to expand operations in China with a business deal that’s expected to close June 1.  Auburn Leather is selling its leather laces division to ISA Tan Tec, which is an international tanning operation. 

Auburn Leather supplies many shoe brands that have factories in China.  President Lisa Howlett says the company needs a greater Chinese presence so it can get its products to market faster. 

Howlett told WKU Public Radio she doesn’t anticipate any layoffs at the Auburn plant.

“Twenty-seven percent of our customer base is in the Americas-Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Mexico, the USA, and Canada, so we’ve got a lot of customer base to continue to service from the Auburn plant.”

For the last couple of years, Auburn Leather has scaled down production for a number of reasons, including soft retail sales in the United States.  During its peak from 2012 to 2015, Auburn Leather employed close to 100 people.  Today, that number is down to about 50. 

Following the sale of its leather laces division, small goods leather manufacturing such as notebook covers and promotional products will remain in Auburn, and Howlett expects to add some new product lines.  Auburn Leather, a fifth generation company, will also retain its tannery in Franklin.