Circuit board firm owner helps needy far and wide - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Circuit board firm owner helps needy far and wide

July 10th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Circuit board firm owner helps needy far and wide


Managing Editor

A Chandler man who gets a charge out of tackling new technology has grown his circuit board company from a small enterprise in his garage to a thriving global operation.

While he has boosted Suntech Circuits, Tudor Melville and his wife, Susie, have amped up their charitable work, helping poor people including prisoners in Mexico and children in Chandler.

Melville is president and CEO of Suntech, a company that distributes raw printed circuit boards that buyers use in electronic freeway signs, home electric meters, streetlights, car headlamps for Tesla and other vehicles.

The business, which also handles prescription-medicine dispensing equipment, amplifiers and other devices that individuals rely on every day, is based on West Chandler Boulevard.

A former Honeywell unit manager who loves driving his Model S Tesla electric vehicle, Melville started Suntech in 1990 with older brother Errol. Tudor worked out of his Chandler garage while Errol worked out of his home in Orange County, California.

Today, Suntech contracts with 15 factories in China and Taiwan to build circuit boards, with about 80 percent of the products sold in the United States and about 20 percent in Asia. The company generates about $20 million in annual revenue.

It’s a long way from when Suntech had just two customers. The company now employs 45 people around the United States and in Hong Kong, China, the Philippines and Mexico.

Errol retired in 2007 and Tudor bought his shares of the company and is continuing their technological legacy.

“It was Errol’s vision,” Melville said. “He’d taken me under his wing at the time. I’ve been in the circuit board business since 1978. I came out of high school and went to work.”

Customers and people in the community have praised Melville’s products and his outreach to people.

“He is an amazing and truly generous businessman and person, very thoughtful, humble and kindhearted,” former Chandler vice mayor Nora Ellen said. “Suntech has helped the economy (in) Chandler in many ways, with Tudor starting his business in his garage in Chandler and staying here the entire time.

“The Suntech international corporate office is located right here in Chandler and is still hiring more employees,” she added, noting:

“Most of Suntech employees live right here in Chandler, and Suntech keeps all activities, such as going to lunch, catering, getting supplies, and such, right here to benefit Chandler.”

Ellen said she met Melville at a fundraiser for Pregnancy Care Centers of Chandler & Gilbert, an organization to which he “generously gives of his time and resources to help pregnant women in crisis.”

“Tudor is definitely a caring and helpful community member in many other ways through his church,” Ellen said. “He is outwardly focused on others’ needs continually. He also does a lot of work with prisoners in Mexico, which has cut down…on recidivism, helping the community there.”

Tami Waak, president of Scottsdale-based Sun Star Industries, has gotten to know the Melvilles over the years.

Sun Star buys Suntech’s circuit boards and uses them in products it sells to the gaming and railroad industries.

“They’re consistent with quality,” Waak said. “When we need something expedited, they go above and beyond helping us out. Our business is such that we do need a lot of flexibility.”

She said she is impressed with how the Melvilles raise money and make donations for a prison, an orphanage called Esperanza Para Los Niños and a church in Mexico.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s such a blessing,” Waak said. “It’s really opened a lot of eyes. I don’t know how they do it. They are super-busy. It’s just such an inspiration to all of us. They find the time and they spend their money to do all these wonderful things for charities.”

Bill Scheer, supply chain manager with Biamp Systems, an audio and video equipment manufacturer based in Beaverton, Oregon, also spoke highly of Melville and Suntech.

Biamp buys boards from Suntech so it can make conferencing and paging equipment for use in conference rooms, auditoriums and train stations.

“What is most impressive about them is their approach to satisfying the customer in whatever way is required,” Scheer said. “Failure is not an option to us or to them and they take that seriously. They will move Heaven and Earth for us.

“They treat everything as an opportunity, not as an obstacle. They’re great business people but they’re better people. I’m aware of Tudor’s benevolence and his charity that he does. I think that speaks volumes of who he is. He has a very good heart, deep character. He just has a great team. He empowers and enables people on the team.”

Melville, 62, has taken on leadership roles since his early 20s. He was 5 when he moved with his family from New York City to Tempe in the early 1960s.

Tudor started working at age 16 at a FedMart store in the electronics department and said he has not stopped since then.

“I just like the new technology,” he said. “We’re building some of the latest technology in the world.”

Melville did not go to college, saying he learned on the job at Honeywell, where he started working in 1978. He said it was “like going to college.”

There, he was a unit manager, responsible for production at the facility, where about 125 people worked.

“That’s how I learned how to manage people,” he said.

In 1982, he left Honeywell when Errol and an uncle, Digby Melville, asked him to run a manufacturing company for them called Circuit Express in Tempe. The company made circuit boards for sound, audio and medical devices.

Later, Melville became president of Circuit Express and Errol stepped down.

Melville said he wanted to get out of manufacturing because he did not want to deal with chemicals that can cause health issues, and he no longer wanted to contend with tough regulations for manufacturing in Arizona.

That’s when he and Errol started Suntech.

Tudor and Susie also launched their charity work after the birth of Suntech. The couple began sponsoring two families whose husbands and fathers were in prison in Rocky Point, Mexico.

They were motivated to start assisting those in prison when one of their friends was put in prison for a crime he did not commit, Melville said.

“I believe when you help other people that can’t help themselves,” he said, “I’ve experienced growth in wealth and personal wellness.”

He said he and Susie began their charitable work for the prison because of two families.

Both men were in prison though they were innocent of the crimes they had been accused of, he said. The couple began sending the families money every month.

About five years ago, they began taking toilet paper, shampoo and other supplies to the Rocky Point prison – items the prison was not providing inmates.

The Melvilles also started taking shoes, blankets and phone cards to the prisoners so the inmates could call their families. The couple talks to prisoners to try to offer them hope.

When they began their support of the prison, it housed about 400 inmates. Now it holds 120, and those who released are behaving well after they get out, Melville said. He said former inmates return and bring shampoo, soap and other supplies to the current inmates.

The Melvilles also donated about 200 bags of concrete to the prison so it could build a basketball court and church. Suntech donated tiles and supplies for the church to be built inside the prison.

“I tell them, ‘You’ve gotta pay it forward,’” Tudor said. “This has really done wonders for our family to be able to support inmates. The (inmates) learned to share, learned to give.”

He said the friend who motivated him and Susie to begin their outreach to the prison was later released and started a church. They also support that congregation and Tudor’s brother Kenny, a salesman at Tempe Honda, donated chairs to the church.

The Melvilles also helped start God’s Grace Foundation, an organization that provides food, clothes and shoes every week to about 150 people in Rocky Point who are struggling financially.

In the Philippines, the couple has been financially helping two children by pay for tuition, clothes and school supplies they have needed for high school.

The couple visits the Philippines every other year to see the youths in person.

“We take them shopping and (to) amusement parks,” Tudor said. “These kids grew up in the trash dump area of the Philippines.”

Close to home, Tudor is a board member on the Faith Family Church in Chandler and he and Susie are involved with JumpStart Ministries. The organization provides a Christian service, Bible study, games and snacks every Saturday for 13 weeks in the spring and 13 weeks in the fall to children in low-income areas of Chandler.

The nonprofit also provides Christmas gifts, Easter baskets and school supplies to youths, along with taking them on field trips, according to Joanne Sweeney, CEO and president.

Sweeney praised Tudor and Susie for their philanthropy.

“It’s just amazing to see what they have done and that they are ready to help,” she said. “There’s so many little things they do. I love to see people continuing to give back.”

Sweeney said Tudor’s energy and enthusiasm for helping others is visible when he visits The Philippines and Mexico with her and Susie.

They were tossing candy to children from a wooden bench on wheels people were pushing on railroad tracks and had to get off the tracks every time a train came in the Philippines during one visit.

“He’s (Tudor) throwing candy as we’re going down the railroad track,” Sweeney said. “It was funny. He loves to give that out. He’s very driven and I think that he’s in a position now where he can do some of this stuff and it just amazes me. I can see him as an example to others. He likes to do things for people and he likes the wow effect. We’re very blessed to have them in our community.”