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Matthew McGee, marketing and operations director at The McGee Group, loves making plans. The team at the McGee Group creates five-year plans to act on, but McGee also keeps a running 20-year plan. It ends up being more like a vision board, he told VM, but it works well—and sometimes, those visions come true. An early version of McGee’s 20-year plan included the simple statement, “we need to make stuff,” he told VM. That statement was eventually added to The McGee Group’s five-year plan—and now, it’s becoming a reality.
In early summer 2021, The McGee Group was presented with the opportunity to acquire an existing eyewear factory. “Needless to say,” McGee said, “we jumped at the opportunity.” Moving some production to the U.S. is an instinctual move for The McGee Group—McGee explained, “We are an American company. We make frames for predominantly the American market. All our brands are American brands. To complete the circle, we need our product to be American made. Authenticity is extremely important to me and to our family. So, fulfilling the story is significant to us and our mission to bring the very best products to our customers.”
Short-term, The McGee Group’s goal is to get the factory up and running and bring a small collection of frames to the market, including an eventual “created brand” for the factory and frames from The McGee Group’s existing brands. At first, these will be just acetate frames, but plans are already in the works for metal and injection frames in the future. “We are planning on learning a lot and building our team’s knowledge base,” McGee said. “Knowledge and experience are the goals for now.”
The Group is also hiring an entirely new team to come into the factory—building their community locally. McGee said that The McGee Group is “lucky to have a plethora of manufacturing and adjacent industries in our area. So, finding really smart people isn’t that difficult.”
In addition to American-centric production just making sense for The McGee Group, McGee also thinks the story resonates with customers. In fact, he said, “One question that I have heard consistently over the course of the last decade is ‘why can’t we make frames here?’ My answer to that is ‘we can!’ The issue with American eyewear companies is not the lack of willpower to make it happen. There are a lot of clever and hardworking people in this industry. Nor is it a financial issue—there are many companies with resources. The reason we, as the American eyewear industry, haven’t yet produced frames on a large scale is due to the knowledge (or lack thereof) with making frames. We, and a few other companies, are seeking to change that (over time of course).”