WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - After much anticipation, a record-pressing facility is opening in Fairfax County.
The sprawling 50,000-square-foot plant is looking to relieve an industry stymied by a supply chain that can't keep up with increasing demand. Record-pressing machines are expensive and bulky, and businesspeople like Astor are starting to become confident enough in the industry's longevity to invest in such costly equipment.
Eric Astor started Furnace Record Pressing in 1996, manufacturing DVDs and CDs in Fairfax County.
Astor started manufacturing records about 10 years ago, but because he didn't have the machinery in-house, he had to outsource the pressing to a plant in Europe.
"I've known this is real for a long time, and our customers are now finally saying we need more vinyl," Astor said. "You either step up or they'll go somewhere else."
He says new plant will increase the production of records in the country by almost 20 percent. The United States produces about 50 million records annually.
Furnace Record Pressing, will have the capacity to make about 9 million a year.
The Fairfax facility, near the interchange of the Beltway and I-395, has been under construction for more than a year.
Furnace Record Pressing has contracts with bands such as Metallica and record companies including District of Columbia-based Dischord Records, a mostly punk label that represents local artists.
The new plant will have 16 new and refurbished machines, each weighing about a ton and measuring about 6 feet long, 4 feet wide and 5 feet tall.
Manufacturing records is a hands-on process that also involves boilers and chillers. Furnace Record Pressing employs 30 people and is adding about 35 more to its payroll when the new plant opens in January.
"The hardest part is finding good people who can understand the trade," Astor said. "You can't turn on a machine and expect records to come out perfectly. The room can have too much humidity. Someone can open a door and the room can then be too cold."
Manufacturing records requires large amounts of energy, and Astor said he had to get permission from Washington Gas to double the building's energy allotment.
Because of this, Astor said he would be donating 5 percent of Furnace Record Pressing's revenue to environmental advocacy organizations.
The new pressing facility also has a listening room and a small area where local bands can occasionally perform.
"I've never seen a format for music grow as fast as vinyl," Astor said. "For the last 30 years, we've been hearing this compressed piece of garbage. Now you're listening to it for the first time."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.