Alaska’s loss is Whitehorse’s gain.
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell on Thursday announced the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) will give $560,000 to RAB Energy to help consolidate its operations in Whitehorse.
Some of the money will also go towards upgrading the company’s existing 30-year-old facility.
The window and door manufacturer will shut down a facility in Anchorage, Alaska, and upgrade the existing Whitehorse one.
RAB Energy Group Inc. manufactures and sells the Northerm brand of windows and doors.
It’s jointly owned by eight Yukon First Nations.
“RAB demonstrates how Indigenous development corporations can collaborate to build capacity and fulfill economic development mandate in their respective First Nations,” Bagnell said.
“It’s not only a huge First Nation success story but a huge success story for the business community in the Yukon.”
The consolidation has already created eight jobs in Yukon so far, RAB Energy president Paul Gruner told a news conference at the Whitehorse plant.
He expects another 12 to 15 full-time jobs to be created once the expansion is complete.
With the CanNor money the company has already bought a new crane. It’s also planning to buy an automatic milling station and a machine that injects argon, an inert gas used as insulation, between glass panes.
The goal is to further automate the plant and make the production line more efficient, Gruner said.
“As we work towards a stronger and more diverse Northern economy, it’s important to recognize the value small- and medium-sized businesses play in creating jobs and contributing to the economic success of the territory,” Bagnell said.
Currently about a third of all Yukoners are employed by small businesses, he said.
Bagnell was making the announcement on behalf of Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the minister responsible for CanNor.
The move will make RAB Energy the largest exporter North of 60, Gruner said.
“If RAB energy and Northerm can do this, why do we not have more manufacturing?” he asked. “It hasn’t been perfect by any stretch of the imagination but we are being successful.”
Gruner said he is hoping to see more manufacturers in Yukon start exporting.
The decision to shutdown the Alaska plant came after the company realized it could only afford to upgrade one of its plants. The two plants were nearly identical.
“In today’s modern age, it’s pretty tough to justify having two manufacturing facilities a day’s drive apart,” Gruner said.
The consolidation will mean more year-round work, he added. During its peak season, the facility employs 40 people.
The plant upgrade should be finished within the next three months, Gruner said, as some of the equipment has yet to be shipped and integrated in the production line.
RAB Energy will still export to Alaska despite the plant shutdown, he noted.
Currently the company also exports to the Northwest Territories.
“We’ve got our mind on Northern B.C., Northern Alberta,” he said. “If we look outwards 10 years out, we’re even looking at the Lower 48 (states).”
Contact Pierre Chauvin at email@example.com