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Kawai America to close in early 2005

Lincolnton’s Kawai plant, located at 2001 Kawai Road, will shut down by early 2005, officials announced Tuesday. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo

Kawai America Manufacturing, Inc., a fixture in Lincolnton since 1988, announced Tuesday it will close by early 2005.
The company manufactures acoustical upright pianos in its plant on Kawai Road and employs about 30 people.
Pianos will continue to be built at the plant during the next nine months as production is gradually transferred to Kawai’s new Indonesia facility.
Company officials said the closing comes after increasing price pressure in the upright piano category and the faster-than-expected progress of the facility in Indonesia.
“The decision to eventually close the Lincolnton plant was an extremely difficult one,” said Muneo Ishida, general manager of the piano division for the Kawai Global Group and president of Kawai America Manufacturing.
“We have been very proud of our U.S. manufacturing presence and extremely pleased with the factory and its people.”
However, Ishida said, a changing marketplace has forced industry officials to continually reevaluate cost structures to remain competitive.
“A decision such as this is never easy,” Ishida said. “But in the end, we must make choices that will ultimately serve the best interests of our dealers and their customers.”
The announcement comes as a surprise to local economic officials, who just months ago honored the company as part of a new International Business Appreciation Week.
Barry Matherly, executive director of the Lincoln Economic Development Association, said the company’s contributions to the community will be missed.
“I think Kawai has always been a good corporate citizen in being involved in the community and participating in a lot of community events,” Matherly said. “It’s going to be a great loss to lose them in that regard.”
Matherly also lauded the community participation and dedication shown by Dick Eckburg, the plant’s manager.
Eckburg, who has been at Kawai’s Lincolnton plant since the beginning, said he is saddened by the closing but remains proud of its accomplishments.
“We’ve built a quality product here for over 15 years,” Eckburg said. “There is great satisfaction in knowing that our pianos are being played in homes and schools by thousands and thousands of people across this country each day.”
Matherly said Kawai’s announcement shows the impact global competition can have on the local economy.
“What this brings home to Lincoln County is that we truly are in a global economy,” he said. “And the competition is just not locally or between North and South Carolina, but that the competition can come from anywhere in the world.”
Matherly said LEDA will continue to focus heavily on existing industries and try even harder in recruitment of new companies.
And the Kawai plant building could be a good tool in doing that, he said. The building, originally constructed as a shell building, is part of what attracted Kawai to the area.
“Our goal is to refill the building as soon as possible,” he said.
Kawai was founded in 1927 in Hamamatsu, Japan, as a research laboratory. In 1988, Kawai America became the company’s only production facility in the U.S.
Kawai is one of the largest piano manufacturing companies in the world and produces a wide range of musical instruments.
At its peak, the Lincolnton plant averaged about 43 pianos a day.by Alice Smith

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