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Local invention seeks support in web contest

Date: 7/17/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — A click of the mouse could help a Springfield company spread the word on its locally made product.

Lo-Bak TRAX, the portable traction device developed by Dr. Roland F. Berthiaume, is featured in the National Mail Order Association's "Made in America Hot Product Contest."

According to the contest's website, the competition is designed to call attention to products invented and made in the United States.

The website reported, "Of all the things we buy each year, if every adult in America made a conscious effort to earmark just $100 from their yearly household budget, to spend on American made products instead of imported products, amazing things would happen. Just think of it, about 250 million people retargeting $100 of their yearly spending on American made products would mean an extra $25 billion in extra sales ... per year. What a boost this simple gesture would mean to all the people working and looking for work in America. The time has never been more important than now to promote and buy 'Made in the U.S.A!'"

Berthiaume hopes that people will go to, register and vote for Lo-Bak TRAX.

He said the organizer of the contest found out about Lo-Bak TRAX through Twitter and was impressed by the product.

Lo-Bak TRAX provides people with lower back pain a way to safely and easily stretch the spine. The device has undergone and passed evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Berthiaume and his business partner Thomas Valentine have been busy marketing the invention and recently attended the Invention and New Product Exposition in Pittsburgh, Pa.

There was much positive reaction to Lo-Bak TRAX, but Berthiaume said several people commented on its $159 price as being too high. The device is made in Westfield by Columbia Manufacturing and neither Berthiaume nor his partner want to have it made overseas.

Berthiaume said that one manufacturer approached them about making in plastic, which could lower the retail price to $29.99. Anthony Sullivan, the well-known pitchman for a variety of "As Seen on TV" products, told Berthiaume that he liked Lo-Bak TRAX, but the price point had to be lower.

Berthiaume added there is a company in China that estimated it could produce and box the complete Lo-Bak TRAX package between $5 and $7.

"The old adage that you get what you pay for is absolutely true," Berthiaume said. He added that many people in this country look at the price of an item without considering the quality of its construction. Berthiaume doesn't want to sell a device that might snap and break while it's in use.

Berthiaume received a favorable response from representatives from cable shopping giants QVC and HSN. Officials from QVC were looking for new products to sell and allotted Berthiaume five minutes to present a pitch for Lo-Bak TRAX. Other companies were only given two or three minutes, he noted.

Both cable shopping channels expressed interest and told Berthiaume they would wanted to see his evaluation from the FDA before they would make a commitment to sell the device.

Sky Mall, however, will be putting Lo-Bak TRAX into its catalog that will be in major airlines and Amtrak for the Christmas shopping season. The company will also be featuring it on its website for an even longer period of time.

Locally, Berthiaume has two retailers that are carrying Lo-Bak TRAX: Footit Health Care Store in West Springfield and Louis and Clark in Springfield.