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Massachusetts ‘is where the heart of the footwear business is’

Inside of the new Clarks HQ in the old Polaroid building in Waltham.
Inside of the new Clarks HQ in the old Polaroid building in Waltham. David L Ryan/Globe Staff

The factories that once made Massachusetts the Shoe Capital of the World are long gone. But in a twist on globalization, many prominent footware companies are building up their brands from the Bay State. The latest is Clarks, the British shoe brand known for its Desert Boot and Wallabee moccasin, which on Thursday is christening its new US offices in the former Polaroid building in Waltham. Within the last year New Balance and Converse also opened new headquarters in Boston.

The 191-year-old company spent around $12 million to turn the old Polaroid property into a building that has the feel of a “contemporary factory — a nod to where we came from,” said Gary Champion, Clarks Americas president.

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The shoe factories were attracted by artisan and craft techniques honed in Massachusetts; their corporate descendants are here for the modern version of that artisan — a vast talent pool of innovators, working in advanced technologies such as robotics.

Massachusetts “is where the heart of the footwear business is,” Champion said. “The skill is what brings us here, even still.”