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Seeking to establish a strong brand presence in the high-end home market among architects and designers, builders and retail dealers throughout Northern California and the West, LG Electronics USA Inc. picked Napa Valley for its first U.S. Signature Kitchen Suite Experience and Design Center.

Located in a south Napa business park, the 23,000-square-foot brand showroom (www.signaturekitchen.com) features 200 LG home appliances. The center has about 20 rooms, including showrooms with kitchen and laundry appliances, a conference center, teaching kitchen, artificial intelligence "lifestyle zone," community room, bar room and VIP dining room.

The Business Journal a year and a half ago reported on the site selection for the showroom, but the company was tight-lipped about the details until now. It turns out that the project was put on hold after the 2017-2018 wildfires that struck the North Bay. According to a company executive, LG did not want a commercial project to delay trades from focusing on the reconstruction process during recovery.

PART OF NATIONWIDE INVESTMENTS

“This first Signature Kitchen Suite is a key milestone for LG home appliances in the United States, making this a momentous day," said William Cho, president and CEO of LG North America, at the Jan. 11 ribbon-cutting for the Napa facility. "We’re committed to innovation and product leadership.”

He said LG is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new facilities across the nation. That includes Experience & Design Center locations such as Napa; what's said to be the world’s most advanced washing machine factory, located in Tennessee; a new solar panel factory in Alabama; a vehicle components plant in Michigan; and a $350 million new LG North America corporate headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, scheduled for completion in 2020. The estimated cost for the Napa center is under $10 million.

While rising tariffs have caused a slowdown in sales for LG in Asia, at the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I.P. Park, chief technology officer of LG Electronics, said the company has absorbed the effects of tariffs on sales by building factories in the U.S.

Last year, the Trump administration’s 20 percent tariff increase on washing machines alone affected 1.2 million imports with the prospect of more increases this year. Washing machines had a record price increase of 18.2 percent from March to June 2018, making it the largest-ever quarterly increase in 40 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

NAPA IDEAL FOR REACHING FOOD-CENTRIC PROFESSIONALS

LG considers Napa to be the heart of a region that is one of the foremost culinary destinations with its top-rated wineries, restaurants and education centers along with many hospitality venues for tourists and locals alike.

“Napa is the ideal location," said Zack Elkins, general manager of Signature Kitchen Suite and LG for Builders. "Establishing our base here gives us unmatched access to the best vintners, farmers, ranchers, fishermen and other craftspeople living a mission every day that is true to food.”

Company officials believe this new center’s portfolio caters to a new generation of forward-thinking cooks — who LG calls Technicurians — combining a passion for food and appreciation for innovation.

The Napa center has a fully equipped demonstration kitchen where product experts can experience hands-on training from outside culinary chefs, in partnership with local wineries and produce farms. The AI Lifestyle Zone will enable those coming to see how LG’s array of home appliances can help them create a smart home ecosystem for their clients.

The Experience & Design Center is certified carbon-free, 100 percent powered by renewable energy from LG solar panels and constructed using green and sustainable materials and systems such as LED lighting.

The company is also ramping up its ability to provide greater technical support and parts after the sale. Some 90 repair technicians will be added in 2019 and parts will be available from four regional distribution centers strategically located across the country. LG is also partnering with top parts distributors nationwide to expedite deliveries.

To assist wildfire victims in rebuilding their homes, LG is offering an extra 10 percent discount over the next 12 months as well as other incentives, such as a rebate, according to Barry Bredvik, senior manager for regional sales West.

STAR OF THE PARTY

Bredvik said LG’s flagship appliance on display at the center is a 48-inch wide dual-fuel professional range. It can be configured with four or six burners and comes with dishwasher-safe standard and wok convertible grates. Overhead traps in the range hood can be easily removed and placed in LG’s dishwashers.

“I call this the Swiss Army knife of ranges, because it includes sous vide (under vacuum), gas, electric, convection and steam features, plus internal temperature probes, adjustable lighting,” Bredvik said.

The range uses both induction and natural gas surface heating elements with heating capacity of 15,000 BTU/h on rear and up to 24,000 BTU/h on front burners. A sous vide unit is included on 18- and 30-inch ovens, combining steam with convection systems deployed according to eight different special cooking modes. The appliance has touch oven controls with TFT LCD display, and knob cooktop controls with LED display along with an electronic clock with timer on each burner knob.

Three levels of brightness are standard on lighting and control buttons, and a wireless connection between the range and the hood remotely adjusts circulation. A downloadable app for Apple or Android smartphones and tablets is available when buyers register their purchases that assists users in monitoring various functions.

“We’re bringing the best aspects of star-rated restaurant cooking techniques to the high-end consumer market for those who want to produce professional results at home,” Bredvik added.

The grand opening of the facility at 650 Airpark Road was attended more than 50 local officials, representatives from Rep. Mike Thompson’s office and other dignitaries and executives along with representatives from the Culinary Institute of America, Napa County Business Development, Underwriters Laboratory, Init and the Association of Home Manufacturers as well as media from Korea and California.