VIENNA - Robert DeMartini, like most Americans, has always known the importance of making and buying domestic products.
The chief executive officer of New Balance, a rare athletic shoe maker still manufacturing sneakers in the United States, is just one of many American manufacturers featured in "American Made Movie," a documentary film by Life is My Movie Entertainment that explores the decline of America's manufacturing work force.
Makers of the film, which touches on the decline and slow resurgence of manufacturing in the Youngstown-Warren area, took their show on the road, stopping at local manufacturing plants in Vienna and Boardman Monday as part a tour of 32 cities in 32 days.
"The key to success is to have an available work force that is well-trained and continuing to change with the times," film director Vincent Vittorio said during his visit Monday morning to Starr Manufacturing in Vienna. "The Valley is fortunate to have progressive leadership."
The tour also stopped at Summer Garden Food manufacturing facility in Boardman.
Starr Manufacturing is considered a local success story largely due to the way the company has reinvented itself finding new clients, new products and new areas of expertise as the market changes.
Andreas Foerster, president and CEO of Vienna-based Starr Manufacturing, left, takes U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, right, through the plant Monday morning, as filmmakers Vincent Vittorio, second from left, and Nathaniel McGill listen in. The stop was part of a 32-day, 32-city tour to promote a new documentary about the struggles of American manufacturing. Photo by Brenda J. Linert
Company Vice President Dale Foerster said adapting to the need for new products with the emerging oil and gas industry, for example, has helped the company continue to prosper. Starr Manufacturing employs 68 workers in good-paying, full-time jobs, she said.
Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber President and CEO Tom Humphries, who attended Monday's event, said the film paints an accurate picture of the sector.
"The reality is the experiences that we have seen over the last 100 years in manufacturing, we have seen some significant changes and we have seen some really significant changes in the last 30 years, and this film addresses that. I was really excited to see it," Humphries said. "I was a little concerned, frankly, that maybe there was a little too much negativity in it, but it is fact. It is what it is, and we are where we are, and it does take people to change where we are at today."
After WWII, the United States consisted of almost 50 percent of the global economy.
At its peak in 1979, manufacturing employed more than 19 million workers.
Since 1979, the U.S. has lost 8 million manufacturing jobs.
In 1979, the average after-tax incomes of the richest Americans made 7.9 times that of the lower class. By 2007, the middle class made 24 times less than the wealthiest Americans, more than tripling the income gap.
Since 2001, 56,000 factories have shut down in the U.S.
Total U.S. debt is greater than $4.4 trillion.
The U.S. has the worst trade balance in the world.
Source: American Made Movie
That need for involvement also was promoted by the filmmakers.
Co-director Nathaniel Thomas McGill outlined three objectives of the tour: Know what you are buying and where it was made; buy where you live, both nationally and locally; and share that message with everyone.
"Through making this movie, we learned how every American plays an important role in helping our local and national economy succeed," Vittorio said. "When you come to understand the people behind the products you buy and how the products you use are made, it will have a greater impact on where your money is spent.
In the film, which was screened locally Monday evening, New Balance's DeMartini talks about American manufacturing, saying he understands why businesses move their production off shore.
"We also fundamentally believe that knowing how to make things and making them here is critically important to the long-term health of our company, and I believe to this country," DeMartini said.
The promotional tour is stopping at 32 cities in 20 states between July 5 and Aug. 5. The film opens in select cities Aug. 31 and rolls out nationwide in September.