ON A PLEASANT DAY in May, Sam Millen stands on the first floor of the former commercial bakery in Somerville that now houses his consumer electronics company, Cue Acoustics. The sounds of WAAF waft in from the back room, where newly completed radios play for 24 hours before being sent to customers. He’s 38, and his black short hair has flecks of gray in it - a legacy, one might say, of two spectacular flameouts with outside manufacturers over five years of struggle to get his company going in the teeth of a recession.
Millen wants to make Cue the latest in a long line of great sound companies – Advent, Acoustic Research, Bose, Boston Acoustics, EPI, KLH, Cambridge SoundWorks, and Tivoli Audio – to come out of the Boston area. All of those firms manufactured here at various times, and they all sourced many of their parts in New England. But that’s no longer the case. Today, there are just two firms besides Cue that make radio, TV broadcasting, or wireless equipment in the state, according to the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership in Worcester. That decline is part of a bigger trend; Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that Boston, Cambridge, and Quincy lost 51,700 manufacturing jobs between 2001 and 2010, leaving about 95,000 people employed in the sector.