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Conway plant builds 2,200 Baldwin grand pianos a year.

Arguably the finest grand piano in the world is made in Arkansas, at Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. in Conway.

Baldwin's 270 employees in Conway, on average, build nine grand pianos a day and about 2,200 a year. They range from a 5-foot-2-inch piano to the nine-foot Baldwin SD10 Concert Grand piano.

Prices for the grand pianos range from about $23,000 to more than $75,000 for the SD10.

Baldwin's sales have increased 23 percent last year to $154 million, causing the Conway plant to hire an additional 30 employees in the past six months.

"People are buying our pianos more because of the economy and because we have more aggressive sales strategies we're putting in place," says Malik Sadiq, manager of the Conway plant since last fall.

Sadiq is a native of Pakistan. He has an electrical engineering degree and received a Ph.D. in industrial engineering in 1993 from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Before joining Baldwin last year, Sadiq was plant manager in Texarkana, Texas, for a pharmaceutical company.

Sadiq says what makes a Baldwin piano superior is its size, craftsmanship and a one-piece rim.

"Most of our competitors have a two-piece rim," Sadiq says. "All Baldwin artist grand pianos are built from scratch with a one-piece rim. The sound quality is not as good with a two-piece rim.

"Baldwin takes great pride in the fact that even our non-concert grand pianos, just the artist grands, have the same technology, for the most part, built into them."

Baldwin's employees in Conway have an average tenure of 8.5 years and some have worked at the plant for 38 years, Sadiq says.

"It's very critical that we have low turnover," says Sadiq, who adds he doesn't play the piano but plans to begin taking lessons. "It takes a lot of training and on-the-job experience to be able to finely tune and voice pianos. We have training programs and renowned technicians who work with them. But the biggest thing is these people love being able to work with a beautiful product like a piano."

Baldwin also offers ConcertMaster, which plays a CD, floppy disk or hard drive on pianos, effectively turning it into a player piano. As many as 200 songs can be stored on it, Sadiq says. ConcertMaster can be installed on any piano.

Top Market Share

Baldwin's stock increased almost 30 percent last year and is now trading at $16 a share.

Baldwin, which has the largest market share of grand pianos in the country, has manufactured Wurlitzer pianos since 1988 and Chickering grand pianos since 1995.

Loveland, Ohio-based Baldwin has about 750 employees in Arkansas and a plant in Trumann, where upright pianos have been built since 1980.

There is also a Baldwin plant in Fayetteville, where electronic organs and printed circuit board assemblies are made. The Fayetteville plant does about $30 million a year in revenue and has been growing at a double-digit rate. Baldwin has only one other U.S. plant, in Greenwood, Miss.

David Davis, plant manager at Trumann since 1993, was the company's first recipient of the D.H. Baldwin Award, named for the man who founded the company i.n 1862.
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Title Annotation:Baldwin Piano and Organ Co of Conway, Arkansas
Author:Smith, David
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 6, 1998
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