Article by Megan Martin, originally published in the Montreal Gazette in 2011

When you pop the latest Hollywood blockbuster into your DVD player or reminisce about that singing career you could have had while listening to your favourite CD, you’re probably not wondering about the technology that goes into your entertainment. How do they get all of that Hollywood glitz and glamour onto one disc? Targray stocks polycarbonates, silicon, silver paste, filters and molds on all five continents to then resell them to suppliers in the four corners of the globe. In other words, it’s a hardware store for the high-tech industry. Its main competitors are in Europe and Asia.

It might surprise you to learn that the leading single-source supplier of the materials needed to produce your favourite movies and CDs is based in the Montreal region.

Targray Technology International Inc. provides raw materials and performance solutions for manufacturers in the optical media and photovoltaic industries. The Kirkland-based company began in the optical media industry in 1987 and ventured into solar technology in 2005. “We’ve adopted a one-stop-shop business model for our niche market,” said Dan Murray, vice-president of Targray. Approximately half of the discs in the world are manufactured using Targray products, and the company is the exclusive distributor of Dow Chemical polycarbonate, the plastic used in CDs. “So whether you’ve heard of us or not, there’s a good chance we’re in the CD collection in your living room,” Murray said. With offices in 14 countries, Targray supplies more than 500 firms worldwide, including major such manufacturers as Sony, JVC and Technicolor.“

One of the primary materials we supply is used in a technology called vacuum deposition, which creates the aluminum coating on the back of CDs that resembles a mirror,” Murray said. In 2005, Targray applied its expertise in the optical media industry to a new venture in photovoltaic technology. “In the early 2000s, optical media was still growing, but we knew we had to diversify in order to keep growing,” said Targray president Andrew Richardson. “So we took the products and technology that we already knew and sought out industries that we could service with a similar business model, and we decided on the solar industry.”

The transition into solar was somewhat natural for Targray as it requires much of the same technology and raw materials as the optical media business. “The technology of depositing materials through thin-film deposition is the same in optical as it is in solar,” explained Mike McGinity, director of sales and marketing in the optical media division at Targray. “So it didn’t take us long to establish ourselves in solar.” The growing demand for solar technology and products contributed to Targray’s decision to begin supplying the industry. “Solar technology is taking off and the world is adopting solar energy in an aggressive way,” Murray said. “Germany, Japan and Ontario, for example, all have really aggressive solar subsidy programs right now; they are leading the charge for solar technology.” Since 2007, the photovoltaic industry has been Targray’s biggest source of revenue. In fact, the company’s shipments of solar grade silicon in 2009 increased by 128 per cent over 2008. Targray has also adapted to changes in the optical media industry.

“You would think with the amount of downloading, the optical media market may be declining, but there are several new products that use optical media technology,” McGinity said. “The advent of Blu-ray, high-definition televisions and high-density software like the games for PlayStation3 are infusing new growth into the optical media industry, and we’re dealing with all the players that are heavily involved in these new formats.” In 2009, Targray appeared on PROFIT magazine’s annual list of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, with a growth rate of 1,155 per cent between 2003 and 2008.

Targray was the largest private company appearing on the list. The privately held Targray has annual revenue of about $250 million. It employs nearly 100 people, 44 of whom work at the company’s new head office in Kirkland, which boasts an eco-friendly heating and lighting system and a full gym for all employees to use. “We are really committed to creating a work environment that people enjoy coming to every day,” Richardson said. “As a company, we want to effect positive change in our community and environment.” Targray is involved in several community causes such as Club des petits déjeuners du Québec, which works to establish breakfast programs in elementary and high schools throughout the province. “We firmly believe in community involvement and responsible business practices,” Richardson said. “We encourage our employees to do the same, so we offer them two paid half-days each year when they can go volunteer at an organization of their choice.” The firm also has a green week during which they challenge their employees to adopt greener habits and hold contests to determine who has become the greenest worker.

Richardson, who delivered The Gazette for six years, studied economics and finance at McGill University and joined Targray after graduation. Prior to joining the company in 1997, Murray, a Concordia University engineering alumnus, worked in the sales division of a pulp and paper company. McGinity worked in various industries including water treatment and telecom before joining Targray in 2003. He holds a degree in engineering from McGill. Andrew Richardson’s father, Tom Richardson, incorporated the company in 1989, after setting up an office at home. “My dad decided to take over my bedroom and use it to start the business,” Richardson said. “Since his first customers were in Brazil and Taiwan, I remember my dad getting up in his pajamas to answer faxes and phone calls at all hours of the night.” Richardson, who joined Targray in 1992, said he remembers sitting next to his father on the couch, listening to him discuss costs and orders with his clients. “As a 19-year-old, it was a very interesting business education,” he said. “We’ve definitely come a long way since our days in the home office.”

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