Union Leader: Salem-based company flash-forwards with photo booths
SALEM — At first glance, photo booths might seem like a relic from a bygone era.
But for the past 15 years, Salem-based Innovative FOTO has used the latest technology and marketing strategies to bring photo booths to malls, casinos, movie theaters and weddings around the globe.
On Monday morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster visited the Innovative FOTO headquarters to tout the success of and push for the renewal of the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program that helps small businesses expand internationally.
The Salem company used the grant to help pay for a trip to Chile, where company leaders are looking to expand their photo booths. Innovative FOTO is the largest designer, manufacturer and operator of photo booths and digital kiosks in the United States and operates more than 3,000 booths in 50 states and in 30 countries, according to company president and CEO Dale Valvo.
"The STEP grant has been extremely beneficial," Valvo said. "We are a small company, and travel is expensive."
The company has 65 full-time employees as well as about 450 technicians who are independent contractors and service the machines.
Kuster said the goal of the STEP program is to promote American businesses by expanding to international markets. "My goal is to make it in America and create jobs at home," New Hampshire's District 2 Representative said. "New Hampshire has smart people who do innovative things."
Valvo and other executives of Innovative FOTO took Kuster on a tour of their 30,000-square-foot headquarters.
From manufacturing the booths, to taking caring of all the accounting, to troubleshooting technical problems at any of the booths across the globe, Valvo said his company is an industry leader because it is able to control every step of the process.
"It would be difficult for another company to build the kind of infrastructure we have," Valvo said.
During the tour, Kuster stopped to have her photo taken in one of the booths, and was even talked into making "moose ears."
Kuster said touring local businesses is one of her favorite parts of the job, and she especially appreciated visiting a business that creates a product so many people enjoy.
"This is a wonderful thing," Kuster said. "It must be great to work for a business where you make people happy."