When two organs leave Lawrence for Taiwan this month, Albert Neutel, president of Reuter Pipe Organ Co., says he'll begin to see the results of an effort he began nearly five years ago to take the company into the international marketplace.
Long before Reuter ever sold an organ in Taiwan, the company was marketing itself there, sending representatives to trade shows "just being there and getting (the company's) name on the local scene."
That kind of exposure, half a world away from home, doesn't come cheap. Neutel estimates the company spent $80,000 to $90,000 just getting its foot in the door.
"I think the payoff is starting to show," Neutel said.
"No way are two organs going to pay all of the expenses we've incurred, but we look at this as the first of many (exports)."
THE FIRST ORGAN to leave the Lawrence plant for Taiwan is a double-case organ a single instrument with two separate banks of verticle pipes destined for Tam-Kang High School in Taipei Sian. The second is a single-case organ for a chapel in the Taipei Theological Seminary.
Neutel said economic and cultural factors converged to make Taiwan a natural market for Reuter's first international sales.
"Because of the tremendous growth of the Christian religion and the number of churches being built, I think it's the most rapidly growing Christian field right now," he said.
Churches that previously held services in homes or were quartered in other buildings now are constructing their own free-standing houses of worship.
Christian churches need organs and, Neutel said, the instrument also helps fulfill an emerging need within Taiwanese society.
"There is a desire for cultural expression," he said.
AT THE SAME time, more Taiwanese music students have studied in the United States and are returning home with a preference for the more versatile American organ, over the classical German organ, in the church setting.
Align those factors with a sound economy and, Neutel says, Reuter has plenty of opportunity.
"The economy in Taiwan is flourishing. People have money they have had money for some time but they've been sitting on it. Then within the last six months it's really freed up," Neutel said.
The country's currency has remained stable for a number of years, he added.
Neutel's discussion of doing more business in Taiwan isn't idle talk. The company has an agent there who also is exploring the market in South Korea, and Neutel himself has scheduled a trip there this spring.
"The list of prospects I have looks very impressive, and I think there's great opportunity for further sales there still this year," he said.
JUST HOW BIG the Asian market could be for Reuter becomes apparent in context of the company's overall production. The small Lawrence plant, which employs about 50 people, builds 10 to 20 organs a year. That means a few sales here and there quickly can account for a sizable portion of the company's ouput.
Neutel says the two organs Reuter already is building for Taiwan represent 8 percent of the company's anticipated business for 1993.
"I can see that being doubled in pretty quick order," he said.
"I think the potential is there for as much as 20 to 25 percent of our sales from overseas. It will require us to actively pursue it."
Reuter also is considering the markets in Malaysia and Japan in addition to Taiwan and South Korea.
Neutel said Reuter has received a great deal of encouragement from Kansas International, a nonprofit organization based in Lawrence that helps companies enter international markets.
KI GAVE REUTER access to a network of expertise on international trade, Neutel said. "They have a wealth of knowledge among its members."
Julie Love, KI's executive director, said the organization makes referrals to professionals who will help businesses identify foreign markets and cut through red tape.
For example, Love said, "They need to find out the laws over there for exporting, they need to get their letters of credit."
Reuter also has been aided by the Kansas Department of Commerce, Neutel said. Grants are available to help businesses with some of the costs associated with entering the international marketplace.
Neutel said Reuter has availed itself of such help. In 1989 the local company, which participated in a trade show in South Korea, was the first Kansas firm to receive a $3,500 expense voucher through the Kansas Trade Show Assistance Program.