Chamber Hopes Trump Bobblehead Turns Real Heads

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Brandon Lamoncha first saw the designs for the piece the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber requested, he couldn’t quite believe what he saw.

“It was literally just a headless man, said Lamoncha, sales manager at Humtown Products in Columbiana. We wondered what we were involved in,” he said. “We get a lot of inquiries of this nature that aren’t real jobs. It’s one of the most unique things I’ve been involved in.”

At Freshmade 3D in Youngstown, co-founders Christopher Tomko, Brett Conner and Rich Wetzel have been working more than a month designing and printing a slightly larger-than-life-sized model of the head that will be attached to the body Humtown printed.

“We worked from pictures in a 3-D modeling software. There’s really a marriage of technology and artistry,” Tomko said. “You can’t make a computer take photographs and turn it into this. Maybe you can, but we can’t.”

Once the printing, done in the labs at Youngstown State University, is completed, the two units will be joined to form the centerpiece of the chamber’s display next month at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland: a seven-foot bobblehead of the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.

“Normally, bobbleheads are thought of as cute or funny,” said Guy Coviello, chamber vice president for government affairs. “They may be described as something less complimentary but regardless of how they’re described, they are delivering a very serious message: that the Mahoning Valley is high-tech.”

While the idea might seem a tad unorthodox, those involved in building the display said it’s a great example of what the Mahoning Valley and 3-D printing are capable of. Since the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute was established here in 2012, the area has become the center of additive manufacturing.

“Hopefully what this does is elevate the awareness that Ohio is the leader and that Youngstown is the nucleus of the ecosystem of additive manufacturing,” Lamoncha said. “With [the convention] right here, hopefully we can use that technology to show the world that we can achieve high levels of complexity.”

Discussions of how the Regional Chamber could draw attention to the area began shortly after the convention site was announced, Coviello said. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce brought in 15.5 tons of sand and turned it into a 25-foot-tall sculpture of Barack Obama. The sculpture captured the attention of visitors and media alike.

The Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber wanted a similar attraction to draw eyes to what the Mahoning Valley has to offer. And unlike the sand sculpture, the bobblehead won’t be washed away – it’s made of plastic with an aluminum coating, along with steel supports inside – and can be moved from location to location.

“Amongst a myriad of community presentations, we think our display will be unique and reflect the Youngstown-Warren region depicting the skills and values ingrained throughout our Valley: design, innovation, creativity, advanced manufacturing and teamwork,” said Mike Hripko, associate vice president for research at YSU.

During the convention, David Myhal, founder of the political consulting firm The 316 Group, says he expects the bobblehead to draw considerable attention and create a buzz on social media. Staff will be at the display to provide information on not just the statue but on the chamber and what’s happening in the Mahoning Valley. Press packets have been sent out, as have invitations to 250 politicians in Ohio.

“This isn’t just about going to the convention. What we want everyone to remember is the Valley has something great to offer,” Myhal said, “It’s a great opportunity to get in front of not only media, but in front of business leaders and political leaders who are in town.”

In addition to the Trump bobblehead, one will be made of his presumed Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The two bobbleheads will be on display for the first presidential debate Sept. 26 at Wright State University in Dayton.

“The Trump bobblehead is fine, but being able to have both at the university where the debate will take place, having them face each other and people coming by to tap the heads [is great],” Coviello said. “It continually gives us a chance to convey that message down there.”

Beyond the display at the Republican convention, the chamber will host a Valley Luncheon in downtown Cleveland July 19, attend the governor’s reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and host site selectors in the Youngstown-Warren area.

“They’re basically high-end real estate agents for companies,” Coviello said. “We will, for the first time ever, be able to host them here. We’ll take them to Cleveland for a day but have them here for two days to talk about everything we have.”

Pictured: Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber vice president for government affairs Guy Coviello and Freshmade 3D cofounders Rich Wetzel and Christopher Tomko show off miniature versions of the bobblehead that will be the centerpiece of the chamber’s display at the Republican National Convention.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.