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plant will move to Connecticut They'll still be Tacoma Guitars
[February 02, 2008]

plant will move to Connecticut They'll still be Tacoma Guitars

(News Tribune, The (Tacoma, WA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 2--Tacoma Guitars is leaving Tacoma.

The company, formed in 1995 by Korean instrument maker Young Chang, will close production at its Frederickson plant by the end of the year. Seventy employees will be offered services from a menu including severance pay, benefit continuation, relocation and job placement assistance.

Fender Musical Instruments of Scottsdale, Ariz., purchased the company in 2004 for an estimated $2 million to $4 million plus the assumption of debt, former Tacoma Guitars President Ferdinand Boyce said Thursday evening.

He said he was not surprised by Fender's announcement to close the Frederickson facility and move production of Tacoma- and Guild-brand guitars to a plant in New Hartford, Conn.

The Connecticut plant, which Fender acquired late last year, is also home to production of Ovation- and Hamer-brand guitars.

"Frederickson is a wonderful plant, a great deal of it based on labor-intensive hand-manufacturing processes," Boyce said. "A lot of guys building guitars are going to robotics, machine-assisted manufacturing, which isn't suited to the Tacoma facility."

Fender spokesman Jason Padgitt on Friday denied that robotics will play a role in the manufacture of Tacoma or Guild guitars.

"There's a lot of respect for everything everyone has done there. It certainly wasn't anything anyone looked at as an easy decision," he said.

Padgitt said the decision centered on an economy of scale.

"We looked at production facilities and compared what was going to be the most effective for the brands overall," he said. "The New Hartford plant has 67,000 square feet. Tacoma has 44,000 square feet."

He promised the name Tacoma will live on.

At its peak, Tacoma Guitars employed 96 workers, said Boyce, now 71 and living in Seattle. He retired three years ago. Lately, he said, "Tacoma just wasn't big enough to run with the big dogs. Fender's commitment obviously is to make money."

"Fender, from the time they bought the company, they really put Tacoma on the back burner," said Jimmy Davis, guitar sales associate at Tacoma's Ted Brown Music. "It's a great brand, as far as acoustic guitars go."

Bruce Kendall, president and CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said he understands the move and doesn't foresee a major local impact.

"It's always unfortunate when good-paying jobs in Pierce County go elsewhere," he said.

Kendall said the Frederickson plant, leased by Tacoma Guitars, should easily find interest from another company.

"There's high demand for manufacturing space," he said.

Along with Fender keeping alive the Tacoma brand, Davis from Ted Brown sees another silver lining. "At least they're keeping it in America," he said.

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535

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