When Manuel Jorge and his wife Marta founded their business and began developing what would become the patented Energy Wall system, they wanted a product to believe in.
Now after decades of perseverance, the Jorges have developed their specific-to-the-North insulation. The product is an exterior insulation panel system designed for use in new and retrofit construction.
Dubbed the Energy Wall system, the product is a fitted plastic foam that acts as an exoskeleton-like insulation that stops heat leaking from homes.
“The idea is that any house could be retrofitted and improve the building envelope,” said Jorge. “Our product keeps it’s value and is designed for the cold.”
He says his product prevents mould infestations as the foam does not absorb moisture or humidity.
Winter heating bills can deliver a big shock to homeowners in the North and this product can save on costs, he said.
“We’ve retrofitted homes that were spending $600 on fuel, now they spend less than $200 on fuel, here in Yellowknife,” said Jorge.
Jorge also constructs modular homes. His most recent contract was for two 1,000 square foot units for the NWT Housing Corporation. He recently shipped them to Behchoko.
Grappling with labour shortage
Like many Northern entrepreneurs, Jorge struggles to find skilled employees.
“There is a huge opportunity for manufacturing in the North, we just need people to work those jobs,” he said.
Currently, his shop is empty. Work stations and machinery have gone largely unused for seven years. Jorge is asking the government to back new programs that partner with Northern businesses to train skilled workers.
This past May, Jorge participated in a round table discussion with the NWT Housing Corporation, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment to discuss his ideas.
“There are young people looking for work and many who would like to develop occupational trade skills, the challenge is to move from words to action,” said Jorge. “ECE has to recognize the existing method is not working.”
Though Jorge did not get the result he hoped for at the round table, he is hopeful the government will provide further incentives for private businesses to hire and train Northerners.
“I often have to hire workers from the south when we have the opportunity to train people here in the North,” said Jorge. “With some newly elected MLAs coming our way I am hopeful progress can be made and manufacturing can reach it’s potential in the North.”