Employment is expected to grow from 10 to 25 by the end of the year.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
AUSTINTOWN -- The owner of a chair-making company says he is hiring only veterans as production workers as a tribute to his brother, a former Marine who was wounded in the Vietnam War.
Patriot Seating Co., 3786 Oakwood Ave., started making office chairs a year ago and has 10 employees, including five who are veterans.
The owner, Ken Altiero, said his staff was larger, but he recently laid off four production workers, who were veterans. He said he now realizes he expanded his staff too quickly, but he hopes to have the laid-off workers back on the job next month.
Meanwhile, the company has started interviewing veterans for its next round of hiring. Altiero plans to increase employment to 25 by the end of the year.
His brother, Jim Altiero, 59, of Girard, was shot in the shoulder while fighting in Vietnam in 1967. The bullet bounced off his shoulder blade and lodged in the right side of his body, where doctors decided to leave it.
"He's my hero," said Ken Altiero, 48, of Boardman. "There's a lot of guys like my brother who aren't appreciated."
That's why he decided to hire only veterans for his production crew, he said. His office staff and senior management aren't veterans.
Perks for workers
Altiero is building break and work-out rooms at the plant, which has been used by a variety of manufacturing companies in recent years. The break room will have a full kitchen, and the work-out room will have about 10 exercise machines.
Altiero said workers can come in early to cook breakfast and exercise or they can bring in their families on the weekend.
"We're trying to create a haven for the vets," he said.
The company is benefiting from hiring people with military experience, he said. The workers are on the job early and work hard all day, he said. "Their work ethic is unbelievable," he added.
Before opening Patriot Seating, Altiero had run KMA & amp; Associates in Cleveland, which was a manufacturer's representative in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky for makers of office furniture.
"It always intrigued me to have my own business and produce my own product," said Altiero, a Youngstown native and Ursuline High School graduate. He is in the process of selling the other business to his partner.
Patriot's biggest challenge comes from Chinese imports, he said. He can't match the price of the imports, but he thinks he can win business by offering better quality, more choices on colors and designs, and faster shipping.
Patriot has four lines of chairs with two more coming. The chairs have been designed by a Michigan designer and one from this area, who used to work for GF Office Furniture.
He credited Duane Perpich, his production supervisor, for setting up the plant. He hired Perpich from a La-Z-Boy plant in Michigan, where he was a production manager. Perpich agreed to come to Patriot because La-Z-Boy was transferring him to Alabama and he didn't want to go.
Altiero said the plant's one assembly line can produce 50 chairs a day, which are being sold by 14 manufacturer's reps in states such as California, Michigan and Texas. He said he plans to have more than 20 reps selling the chairs across the country.
Altiero said he plans to grow much bigger, noting that his largest competitor can produce 3,000 chairs a day. "I plan on having that capacity," he said.