KEEN Utility Factory Tour – Making Boots in the USA
Keene, New Hampshire (USA) is known as one of the most technologically advanced cities in America. Keene is located near the border with Canada and Maine. The city was founded by John Hancock in 1777. Today it’s home to over 25,000 residents and employs around 6,500 people. Keene has been called “the Silicon Valley” due to its high concentration of technology companies such as Apple Computer, Intel Corporation, Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett Packard Company and others.
Keene is known for having many small businesses which are all based on the same core business model: they make things better or cheaper than anyone else. They do not have large marketing departments nor do they have expensive advertising budgets. Instead these small businesses rely on word of mouth and referrals from their customers to grow their business.
The city of Keene is also known for being a hub for innovation. It is home to several universities and research centers including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Tufts University, Dartmouth College, and other private institutions. Many innovative products and technologies have come out of Keene. One of the most famous products is the computer mouse which was invented in 1964 by a researcher at MIT. He used the technology he developed for the mouse to invent the first widely used bar code.
When you start your journey at Keene’s Railroad Station you might think you took a wrong turn and ended up in a city in Europe rather than New Hampshire. You are surrounded by beautiful architecture and historical buildings. Most of the town’s residents are dressed in professional business attire and everyone seems to be on a brisk walk to their next meeting. As you make your way out of the city center you begin to see more residential neighborhoods. Most of the houses are painted in pastel colors with well manicured lawns.
The sidewalks are filled with people walking and children biking to school or playing outside with their friends.
As you travel further you begin to see signs for different factories, office parks and industrial buildings. The streets are filled with old factory buildings now being used for new businesses. Many of them display a sign on the front of their building that tells you what company is located inside. You come across one building that has no sign so you walk inside to see who is located there.
You enter the Keene Factory Outlet Mall. Inside you’ll find over 30 factory outlets selling shoes, clothing, handbags, housewares and more. You come across the New England Shoe Company where you can buy quality leather sandals and shoes made in America for less than you would pay at other shoe stores. You find a pair of comfortable naturalizer shoes on sale for $20. They normally sell for over $50.
You walk further into the building and see the Keene Factory Outlet Mall Information Center where you can find a map of all the factory outlets located in the mall. You also see there are over 100 other shops and restaurants in the rest of the Keene Factory Outlet Mall. You could spend days here and not see everything in one visit.
As you leave the factory outlet you come across a sign for UFFIKI Brand Clothing made in Keene, NH. You walk into the store to see what kind of clothing they sell. The store is filled with shirts, pants, dresses, shoes, socks and other clothing items made from quality fabrics. Nothing in the store is being sold for more than $80. Most of the clothing items are priced between $20 and $50.
You pick out a few shirts, socks, pants and a belt. The clothes are well made and you can see yourself wearing them for years to come. You pay for your clothing and head to the exit.
You walk outside and find yourself on the edge of Keene’s New City neighborhood. The streets are filled with children on their bikes, people out for a stroll and teenagers in their cars. You can hear the sounds of banjos and acoustic guitar playing as one of the local musicians entertains the crowd on the corner.
You’ve been on the road for quite awhile and decide to find a place to rest for the night. You look around and spot a nice Bed and Breakfast across the street from the New City Park. It looks clean and well maintained. You enter the lobby and find a nice old couple that runs the place. They tell you they have rooms available and you pay them for one night.
They give you a key to a room on the third floor.
You enter your room and find a bed, dresser, TV, shower and toilet. The furnishings are basic but you didn’t come here to watch TV or sit on top of the bed. You grab your bag off the floor and place it on the bed. You open it and pull out some of the clothes that you had stuffed in there. After a quick search you find what you’re looking for.
You smile and whisper to yourself, “Found you.”
You place the book on top of the nightstand next to the bed. You lay down on the bed and begin to read one of your favorite books, The Shining by Stephen King. You’ve read the book several times but you just can’t get enough of it. You read until your eyes begin to burn and then close the book. You place it back on the nightstand and fall fast asleep.
You awaken shivering in the middle of the night. The temperature in the room feels below freezing and you can see your own breath. You have left the window open above the bed so you jump up, close it and climb back into bed.
The room temperature has now risen a bit but you are still covered with goosebumps. You hear a tapping on the window and find something has thrown a pebble at your window. You get back out of bed and look out the window. There is a large raven perched on the windowsill. The raven stares into your eyes and then nods its head.
“It’s about time lover,” you hear a soothing voice say from above your head.
You look up and see the ghostly image of a woman with long raven hair flowing down across her back and shimmering green eyes. She looks to be in her late 20’s although it is hard to tell exactly.
“I’ve waited here for you for years. Decades in fact. I would’ve thought you’d have found me sooner,” she says as a smile creeps across her face.
You feel compelled to step through the window but you know there is a sheer drop on the other side so you resist the urge.
Who are you?”
“Oh I think you know who I am,” she replies in a playful tone. “We’ve met before but it’s been so long you’ve forgotten, just like I did.”
The raven turns its head and caws loudly. You are about to step back from the window when the raven flies off. You stand there confused but relieved that you didn’t go through the window. A moment later you hear a knock on your door.
“Just a minute…” you say as you tiptoe across the room.
You look through the peephole and find an elderly couple standing in the hallway. You open the door a crack and ask if there is something I can help you with.
“We just wanted to say how lovely we think your room is. Such a nice young man like you should have something comfortable to return to every night,” the old woman says.
“Especially since he has a long journey ahead of him,” the old man adds.
You widen the crack in the door enough to slip your wallet through and then close it back up. You retrieve your wallet and count your money. You didn’t seem to have anything missing but it’s still the principle of thing.
You return to the bed and begin reading your book again. Every once in a while you look up to see the raven sitting on the windowsill staring at you. You begin to feel trapped in the room and decide to turn in for the night. You place The Shining back into your bag and place it on the floor next to the bed. You lie down on the bed and stare up at the ceiling.
You are asleep for what seems like only a few minutes when you begin to perceive a series of raps coming from the headboard of your bed. You look over and see that the window is closed and there is nobody in the room with you. You continue to hear a slow and steady rap rap rap on the headboard. You look over just in time to see a man walk out of your bathroom.
He wears a silver neck brace, is dressed in a tweed jacket and dress pants and has salt and pepper hair. He is bald on top but his hair grows long on the sides of his head and he has a thick mustache. His most distinctive feature however are his wire rimmed glasses.
You sit up in bed and just stare at the man. You can’t quite make out the color of his eyes but from what you can see they appear to be bright red. The man stares back at you without saying a word.
W-who are you?”
you ask as you pull the covers up against your chest.
“My name is Mr. Reed and I’ve been sent here by your university to provide you with transportation to class,” he replies in a monotone voice.
You look around the room but don’t see anyone else in the room other than the man claiming to be Mr. Reed.
“I can only show myself to you and while you are in this room,” he says reading your thoughts. “If you would be so kind as to get ready, we can be on our way.”
You consider his offer for a moment and then decide that it would be better than having to walk to class in the snow. You reply that you will take him up on his offer and he nods his head before turning around and walking back into the bathroom.
You get out of bed and quickly shuffle into the bathroom. Once inside you lock the door and beginleak hopping.
“I’m not really going anywhere with a strange man, even if he is from my university,” you say outloud.
You hear the water from the sink turn on and then off again as Mr. Reed replies, “Please, it will only take a moment of your time and I guarantee your safe return.”
You hear a knock on the door.
“Come on, I’m not going to hurt you,” he says.
You look under the door and see a pair of shoes standing outside the bathroom. You breathe a sigh of relief.
If he was a ghost, he wouldn’t have feet, would he?
Taking another deep breath to calm yourself, you unlock the door and swing it open. To your surprise, you are face to face with Mr. Reed and he is much shorter in real life. You look past him and see two more men in suits standing outside the bathroom door.
“Hi, I’m Mr. Reed and we are here to escort you to class,” he says holding out his hand for you to shake.
You take his hand and shake it slightly puzzled by what is going on. Mr. Reed turns and looks at one of the suited men who hands him a clear plastic bag which he then hands to you.
“These are your books for today. We need to get going if we are to make it to your class on time.”
You look into the bag and can see your books for today. You look back up at Mr. Reed who is starting to head out the door.
“Come on, let’s go,” he says.
You look back at the other suited man who just nods his head. With a shrug of your shoulders you follow Mr. Reed out of the room.
You enter a elevator with the two men and Mr. Reed. The elevator is small and cramped with five people in it. The trip is made in total silence and before you know it, you are exiting the elevator into what seems to be an underground parking garage. Mr.
Reed gets into a car and starts the engine. The two suited gentlemen get into the car as well leaving you with no choice but to enter as well.
The ride is made in silence and before you know it you are parked outside your classroom. Mr. Reed gets out of the car first and opens your door.
“Thanks for the ride,” you say holding up your books slightly.
Without a word or even a nod, Mr. Reed takes the bag from your hands and heads back into the building, leaving you standing alone outside the door. You look around and not seeing any other students, enter the classroom by yourself.
“Ah, Mr. Brandt. I’m glad you could make it to class today,” the teacher says when he sees you. “Please take a seat.”
You walk down the aisle between the desks and find an empty one in the back of the room. You sit down and open your books placing them on your desk. The class proceeds as normal until the bell rings and you are dismissed. You gather your things and head to your next class with a million questions racing through your mind.
You walk to your next class with Ben and fill him in on what happened when you first awoke this morning.
“That’s messed up,” he says, “You need to tell the Dean of Housing or something.”
“I dunno. It seems like a stupid thing to make a fuss over. I didn’t learn anything during that time that I couldn’t have learned some other way.”
“I guess,” Ben says. “
Where’s your other class usually meet?”
“It’s in an office building I think. I haven’t been there yet.”
Classes go by without anything unusual happening and you learn a little bit about DNA in your biology class. During free period you decide to visit the office building that holds your NST classes. You grab your bag and head outside where you find Ben waiting for you.
Hey, you want to hang out?
There’s nothing going on at my place. My sister is home from school and my mom is busy trying to socialize.”
“I can’t right now. I need to go check out a few things.
I’ll catch you later though, ok?
Ben nods his head and walks away. You wave to a few others that are hanging around outside but don’t stop to talk with them. You continue to head towards the office building and once you arrive, find the room number you were given when you registered.
You enter the room and see a long counter with half a dozen people in front of computers. No one pays you any attention as they are all too focused on their searches. You find an empty seat and sit down.
You think about what exactly you are looking for. Your first thought is to try to find other people like you, but you realize that might not be the best plan seeing as though they haven’t done too well with keeping themselves hidden.
You could try to find out more about Mr. Mol. You have his card in your bag but you aren’t sure exactly what you could find out about him since his office is in another state.
You could look up this place you keep dreaming about. You have a feeling it is somewhere in England but past that you aren’t sure what you could find.
There is your sister as well. If you could locate her, then maybe you could figure out how she does what she does and learn from that.
You pull out your smart phone and start googling random things to try to get an idea of what exactly is out there. You search for 2 hours and then decide to call it quits and try again some other time. You don’t really learn anything new but you do realize that people have been finding out all kinds of things about you online and have been leaving comments on the forums about your sister.
You exit out of the last website that caught your interest and are about to shut off the computer when you see a woman standing by the doorway waving at you. It takes you a moment but you recognize her as the woman who was driving the car when your sister disappeared.
She walks up to you and gives you a big hug, “At last we meet! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
you say in surprise.
“Oh yes! You and your sister are the only ones who can help us. We need to find the stone!”
“Come on! We need to go!” She grabs your hand and starts to pull you towards the door.
“Ah…who are you again?” You say as you get up off the stool.
“Oh silly me, how rude of me!
Where are my manners?
My name is Kate and I am your sister’s partner.”
Partner? You mean like in a job?”
“Oh no, we’re married. She just never got around to changing her name.
I guess it doesn’t really matter now, does it?”
This comes as a bit of surprise to you. You are aware that she has had boyfriends in the past but you had no idea that she was married. This Kate person seems nice and all but you aren’t sure if you want some stranger coming along and saying they are married to your sister and what not.
Where is she? What’s going on exactly?”
“I’m sorry; this must all be so confusing for you. Let’s just go somewhere so we can talk and I will do my best to explain it to you.”
You look around the room and see that everyone is staring at you. A few of the guys are even getting up from their seats and starting to approach you.
“Uh…okay…” You say as you turn back towards Kate.
“This way please.” She says and starts leading you towards a door in the back of the room.
You and Kate walk down a series of hallways until you come to an empty office. It appears to be some kind of security office. You see several screens, all of which show different areas of the building you are in. Most of them are focused on an empty foyer area but one of them is in a small room where you see a group of people sitting around a table with bags and urns in front of them. It takes you a moment to realize that this is a video feed from the gambling room.
“Please have a seat.” Kate says pointing towards some chairs in front of her desk.
You sit down and Kate takes a seat behind the desk.
Can I offer you something to drink?”
Kate asks. “I have coffee, soda, beer, wine…”
“No thanks.” You say as you stare at the video screen.
Those people, are they dead?”
You ask motioning to the screen.
Kate looks over at the screen and her demeanor changes immediately. She gets up off her seat and walks in front of the screen so you can no longer see it.
“I think we should continue this conversation later.” Kate says in a much more serious tone.
Do I need to leave?”
“No, you can stay. I’m going to go check on something and be right back, if that’s alright.”
“Sure…” You reply as Kate turns and quickly leaves the room.
You watch her go and can’t help but notice the way her jeans fit her as she walks away.
You spend a few minutes alone in the room before you suddenly hear the sounds of sirens outside. At first you think it is the police but instead of heading towards the building you are in, they sound more distant. You go over to the nearest window and pull back the blinds to see what is going on.
You can’t believe what you are seeing.
Several car and large trucks are crashing into each other in the middle of the street while people run amok through the streets in terror. A man on a motorcycle suddenly sheds his jacket to reveal wings and flies up towards one of the flying drones. He smacks into it and the pair of them go down in a ball of fire, crashing into a nearby building.
You hear footsteps behind you and turn to see Kate has returned. She barely gets in the room when you grab her by the shoulders.
What the hell is going on?
!'” You demand an answer from her.
“I’m sorry, I should have told you before we came here but I hoped I would find out something different…” Kate says before you interrupt.
Like what? What is this place?”
Kate looks around and sees the blinds are open on the window. She goes over and shuts them before speaking again.
“This, is an airborne communications and command center for a private military contractor.” Kate says
You work for a private military contractor?”
You ask, somewhat surprised.
“Not exactly.” Kate admits. “The DIA has been investigating them for possible illegal activity and I’ve been trying to infiltrate the company to find out exactly what they have been doing.”
Sources & references used in this article:
- Embedded competitiveness: Taiwan’s shifting role in international footwear sourcing networks (LL Cheng – 1996 – Citeseer)
- Compassionate conservatism: What it is, what it does, and how it can transform America (M Olasky – 2000 – books.google.com)
- Imagining America: Influence and images in twentieth-century Russia (AM Ball – 2004 – books.google.com)
- England and America: a comparison of the social and political state of both nations (DK Shipler – 2005 – Vintage)
- Rachel and her children: Homeless families in America (EG Wakefield – 1834 – books.google.com)
- The Poetry of Travelling in the United States (J Kozol – 2011 – books.google.com)