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American Made Movie: fact or fiction?

American Made Movie, deftly portrays the drastic loss of American manufacturing jobs over the last four decades. It chronicles the epic failures, including the devastation of Detroit and the American auto industry. American Made Movie highlights the successes, including Tough Traveller, a Capital Region company that serves customers nationwide from right here on Schenectady's State Street.

Are we doomed to low-paying service economy.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A showing of the film at Proctor's GE Theater on Tuesday night skirted the irony of a corporate named theater hosting an event in a city in which that corporation once supported a 50,000-strong workforce, now 3,000.

American Made Movie spends a great deal of time depicting ghost towns in, among other places, Detroit and Georgia. The camera captures abandoned plants and landscapes that resemble moonscapes. The film’s message is clear: Things are dire in America, and the country’s post-World War II manufacturing boom is a distant memory, replaced by a new paradigm in which globalization, technology, and foreign government competition now neuter domestic attempts to compete on the world manufacturing stage.

The film movingly chronicles the Sysyphean struggles of entrepreneurs to create businesses in their hometowns.

  • Mark Andol opened his first business in his father’s garage, “Mark’s Small Engine and Repair Service.” He started General Welding & Fabricating, Inc. in 1989, renting a 5,000 square foot shop in East Aurora, NY. A hero to the town of Elma, NY, Mark has led an onging fight to create jobs. His mantra: "Failure is not an option."
  • Merrie Buchsbaum, similarly, built Merrily Made, producing high-quality Americana souvenirs and collectibles. Her embrace, rejection, and re-embrace by the Smithsonian, her major contractor, tugs at heartstrings.
  • Robert T. DeMartini serves as the Chief Executive Officer of New Balance, Inc., one of the few, if only company, manufacturing made-in-America athletic shoes and apparel. Ironically, the company still produces 75 per cent of its goods overseas.

While American Made Movie well chronicles the shocking past and lays out the issues to address, lacking are details on solutions. What is the role of government in trade and job creation, in particular regulating tariffs? (Check the infamous Smoot-Hawley Act, credited with accelerating the Great Depression and NAFTA--the North America Free Trade Act--that seems to have accelerated the loss of American jobs.) What role do consumers play in buying at the "big box" stores like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc? What role do these giants play in the declining American jobs scene and how can their role be parsed? Are high-tech jobs a realistic answer, looking forward? Has America irrevocably become a low-wage, service economy?

In all, a game effort by the makers of American Made Movie. However, its content begs a deeper discussion that engages everyone, from worker to consumer, business owner, job trainer, and government official. Recovery is a massive, breathtaking chore ahead. Who will take the lead to broker a level-headed discussion that leads to solutions?

Time is ticking for American workers and the American economy.

Dave Balog teaches financial literacy to families. 355-0967.

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