The hum that can be heard throughout Reuter Organ Company's year-old Lawrence manufacturing plant is music to the ears of company president Albert Neutel.
It's the air conditioner. Neutel said having a modern cooling system had been one of the best parts about the company's move from its longtime downtown Lawrence factory to its new 72,000-square-foot facility at 1220 Timberedge Road.
"It is so much nicer," Neutel said. "At the old location, anytime it got in the upper 90s outside, we had to stop work at noon because it was just too hot. Now the guys can work with their shirts on."
This weekend, though, there will be a more traditional type of music at the Reuter factory. To celebrate its one-year anniversary at the location, the company is staging an open house on Sunday. The event will feature five of the world's top organists playing on a recently built Reuter organ.
"No expense was spared here," Neutel said. "This is an opportunity to hear some of the finest musicians in the world."
It also will be a chance for the community to see how the unique longtime Lawrence company has been growing. Neutel said the new facility had allowed the company to grow to 54 employees, up from about 40 when the company was located at Sixth and New Hampshire streets.
The new building is much more efficient, Neutel said. For example, at the old building it would take crews a half-day to unload a semi-truck load of lumber because they had to shuffle each piece of lumber into the building through an open basement window. A forklift and a loading dock cuts the job down to about five minutes in the new building.
Neutel expects the building, which is nearly twice the size of the previous factory, to help the company continue to grow. He said the company had set a goal to double its sales and add 20 to 25 new employees by 2007.
The weak economy hasn't slowed the company's expansion plans. Neutel said the company, which normally produces 10 to 20 organs a year, had enough orders to keep the company busy for the next two years.
Neutel said he thought his business hadn't felt the economic downturn in part because 99 percent of the company's customers were churches. He said his company had benefited from a recent trend of churches going back to more traditional musical services.
"Churches over the past few years have turned to everything from drums to guitars to sticks and washboards to create music programs to attract younger families," Neutel said. "That worked, but the older people who were instrumental in supporting the church stopped coming because they wanted a more traditional sound.
"The churches were full, but they were going broke. Now they are turning back to the more traditional music service, and that often times means a high-quality organ."
The company doesn't release its annual sales totals, but Neutel said they have been growing about 10 percent per year for several years.
The company, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year, has built organs to serve churches, schools and concert halls in nearly every state and in Canada, Taiwan and Korea. The company has built organs ranging in price from $180,000 to $1.4 million.