Media Resources International (MRI), now celebrating its 50th anniversary, has evolved significantly throughout the years under the guidance of Keith Edwards, who is currently its co-owner and chief operating officer (COO). His older brother Grant registered the company as Grant Sign Services back in 1966 and got it up and running in 1967, specializing in sign installation and maintenance. Edwards joined a few years later, in 1972, and eventually became general manager (GM) in 1990 after his brother got out of the business.
目前，MRI标识制造商正在庆祝成立五十周年，Keith Edwards是公司的所属人和首席运营官，在他的指导下，公司一直在向前发展。1966年，Keith Edwards的哥哥Grant将该公司注册为Grant标识服务公司，并于1967年正式运行，专门从事标识的安装和维护工作。1972年，Keith Edwards加入公司，并在他的兄弟离职后，于1990年成为公司的总经理。
Now, MRI not only installs and maintains signs, but also designs, prints and fabricates components and systems that are used in various aspects of the sign industry.
“We’ve come a long way,” says Edwards, “from a small installation company of three people in 1967 to a national company with more than 180 employees today.”
Investing in growth
When Grant exited the business, he sold it to Robert J. Deluce, now best-known as president and CEO of Porter Airlines.
当Grant离开公司时，他将股份卖给了Robert J. Deluce，Robert J. Deluce是现任波音航空总裁兼首席执行官。
“I worked for Bob as GM for 10 years and learned a lot,” says Edwards, “but he didn’t want to invest in the further growth of the company. By late 1999, I decided I wanted to buy it back. I worked with two silent partners to help finance the deal and then we really ramped up the business. In our first year, we went from having about 13 employees to 35, bought new equipment and more than doubled our sales. It was mainly a matter of getting additional work from our existing customers, since now we had the capacity to do so.”
In addition to growing in scale, the company grew in the diversity of its products and services. By way of example, one of Edwards’ business partners, Steve Gallow, had a background in large-format printing and led an effort in 2003 and 2004 to expand MRI into that field. (The other silent partner was Cal Corneya, whose background was in out-of-home (OOH) advertising with MediaCom. He has since retired, selling his shares to Jeff Rushton.)
Edwards的业务合作伙伴Steve Gallow，在大幅面印刷领域有一定的资历。另一位合伙人是Cal Corneya，之前与MediaCom一起从事户外广告的工作，在他退休后，把自己的股票卖给了Jeff Rushton。在2003年，他们一起决定推出MRI品牌。直到现在，除了MRI标识制造商的规模不断扩大以外，公司的产品和服务也开始呈现多样化。
“Being an installation company, we used to receive graphics printed by other companies,” Edwards explains, “but if they were printed wrong or delivered late, we got blamed. So by printing them ourselves, we could fix any problems better and faster than before.”Under the oversight of Will Thomson, the fourth partner within the current ownership of MRI, a 15-person in-house team continues to print approximately 18,581 m2 (200,000 sf) of graphics per month. A large percentage of their work is for outdoor billboards, but they also print at higher resolutions—up to 1,440 dots per inch (DPI)—on acrylic, polycarbonates and glass, using both solvent-based and ultraviolet-curing (UV-curing) inkjet printers.
In 2005, MRI bought a manufacturer whose tri-vision signs it had previously installed and serviced. Rebranded as Rite Sign International, it became a highly successful division of the company.
“We started making those signs here and got to 95 per cent market share in Canada,” says Edwards. “It was a great business for us.”
A similar move into large-scale light-emitting diode (LED) displays involved a sales agreement and partnership with U.S.-based Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) in 2009 and the eventual acquisition of Hamilton Digital Designs (HDD), based in Burlington, Ont., in 2011.
早在2009年，MRI就与美国的Young Electric Sign Company签订了关于制作大型LED显示屏的合作协议，到了2011年，MRI收购了位于安大略省伯灵顿的数字设计公司。
“We started developing new LED systems after buying HDD, as then we had the financing and personnel to make it happen,” says Edwards. “We modified colour positioning to optimize the screens’ horizontal and vertical viewing angles, sourced more efficient and powerful LEDs and angled them downward to reduce the waste of light spillage upward. We may not be as big as Daktronics or Watchfire Signs, but we run head-to-head with them and about 60 per cent of our sales are in the U.S., where they’re based.”
Grant’s name stayed on the company during the first few years of its new co-ownership structure, but was soon no longer suitable for the growing mix of services and products.
“Our divisions all had different names,” Edwards explains, “so we held a contest within the company to come up with one brand for everything we did. That was how we rebranded as MRI.”
MRI’s current mix of services includes large-format digital printing and the custom fabrication of large LED displays, such as scoreboards. The company’s clients include OOH firms, advertising agencies, real estate developers and arenas.
“Installation and maintenance are still a big part of what we do, comprising about 50 per cent of our overall business,” Edwards says, “then five per cent is printing and the other 45 per cent is digital LED billboards and displays, which are growing at a rapid rate.”
Over the past few years, MRI has also developed a reputation for the specialized fabrication and installation of large, three-dimensional (3-D) props for the OOH industry. In 2014, for example, Pattison Outdoor launched a Coca-Cola billboard in Vancouver and Toronto to coincide with the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Both billboards were updated with a tally of Team Canada’s medals.
To accomplish this effect, MRI first printed the main 7.3 x 14.6-m (24 x 48-ft) billboard panel on flex material and attached a 6 x 6-m (20 x 20-ft) red maple leaf made of exterior-grade plywood with self-adhesive to the front, securing it with throughbolts. Then, the company’s crew added 0.9-m (3-ft) plywood Olympic medals—wrapped in gold, silver or bronze vinyl and decorated with blue flex ribbons—to the billboards to reflect Team Canada’s ongoing performance. Every morning, the installers would go to the site if any medals were won the day before and add them to the maple leaf. In total, Canada won 25 medals at those games.
为了做好这个广告牌，MRI首先在柔性材料上打印，广告牌面板的尺寸为7.3 x 14.6米（24 x 48英尺，并附上了一个6 x 6米（20 x 20英尺）的红色枫叶，胶合板自动粘合到前面，用通孔固定住；然后，该公司在广告牌中添加了0.9米（3英尺）的胶合板奥林匹克奖章，以金、银或青铜色的乙烯基来反映加拿大队的获奖情况，每天早上，安装人员将会去现场添加枫叶。加拿大在这些比赛中共获得25枚奖牌。
The project was a runner-up in the 2014 National Sign Competition’s OOH category, beaten only by a fellow MRI-fabricated ‘stunt’—a giant Mike’s Hard Lemonade can that was installed along Toronto’s Yonge Street in the summer of 2013.
More recently, the company developed a giant roulette wheel for Clear Channel Outdoor, advertising Fallsview Casino of Niagara Falls, Ont., to people passing by Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square.
最近，该公司为Clear Channel Outdoor开发了一个巨大的轮盘，多伦多Yonge-Dundas广场经过的人们都可以看到这个广告。
“Computer-aided design (CAD) technology has made this kind of work quicker and more affordable than it used to be,” says Edwards. “We’ve invested in more computer numerical control (CNC) cutters for working with foam, as we’ve been inundated with these types of projects and we still don’t have enough people to handle the demand. It’s a niche where we’ve done a great job at marketing.”
“We’re good at creating custom digital billboards, but in the last 18 months, we’ve also seen more and more indoor LED display projects come along,” says Edwards. “They’ve quickly grown to represent about eight per cent of our work.
A longer reach
In 2010, MRI’s headquarters (HQ) moved from a leased property in Mississauga, Ont., to a fully owned 5,574-m2 (60,000-sf) building in neighbouring Oakville. This centre of operations is also complemented by smaller facilities in Richmond, B.C., Edmonton and Calgary, along with sales offices throughout North America. And to back up its claim as Canada’s only national sign installation company, MRI operates more than 100 installation and service vehicles.
“Back in the 1970s when I joined the industry, large sign companies had their own trucks,” Edwards explains. “Nowadays, most of them have gotten out of the installation business. And OOH firms do not do their own maintenance. The costs of the vehicles have gone way up and you have to roll them over pretty quickly to keep your fleet viable. So we pride ourselves on taking on that work for the trade. We’re a partner to them, not a competitor.”
And in the LED display business, MRI’s reach extends not only throughout Canada and the U.S., but also through South America into markets like Peru and Argentina, where it has worked with local OOH firms.
Nevertheless, MRI remains committed to its roots in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In 2015, the company won an Oakville Award for Business Excellence. It was named the town’s Large Business of the Year in recognition of its track record of growth, innovation and community activities.
“Having been with the company for 45 years and an owner with some great partners for 16 years,” Edwards says, “I’m truly proud of MRI and can say it is one of a kind in our industry. We’ve got a dedicated team of the best staff in the industry. We take care of each other and of our customers. Everything else just falls into place.”