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Rowe to make jukeboxes in Mexico, not Michigan

02/27/09 03:38 PM ET   AP

Jukebox

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Rowe International Corp. says it will move the production of its jukeboxes to Mexico after nearly a century of making them in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The iconic music-machine maker told about 100 factory workers on Thursday that the change will take place in August.

Rowe, one of the largest makers of commercial and residential coin-operated jukeboxes, was founded in Chicago in 1909 and moved its headquarters a few years later to Grand Rapids, where more than 1 million of the machines have been made. A St. Louis-based private equity firm owns the company.

John Margold, vice president of sales, said Rowe plans to keep about 70 administrative positions in engineering, sales and accounting in Grand Rapids.

"The downturn in the economy became too much, and we'd done all we could do to keep the company viable here," Margold told The Grand Rapids Press.

Production will be transferred to a facility in Reynosa, Mexico, near the Texas border. Some Grand Rapids employees will be offered jobs there, according to a release issued Friday by the company.

Rowe closed a Philadelphia bar-top game plant two years ago and brought work to Grand Rapids to try to contain costs, Margold said.

The industry has weathered staggering changes due to technological advances. Jukeboxes have evolved from vinyl-platter players to the boom days of the compact disc to Internet-enabled machines.

Rowe adapted by building machines that accepted credit cards instead of change and by building models that had the company earning a percentage of every song played.

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Filed by Julie Satow  |