Glass act
Hay River window firm expands

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Hay River (Aug 28/00) - A Hay River manufacturer has proven Northern business can compete head-to-head south of 60 and has plans to expand further.

Arctic Front Windows Ltd. was started in 1993 to keep pace with technology and give Northerners a clear view to a warmer, cheaper place to live.

"The idea came out of necessity, really," said company marketing manager Rick Synard, adding the idea for PVC (poly-vinyl chloride) window frames came out of Europe about 15 years ago.

"The Northwest Territories was perhaps the last place in Canada to start using PVC windows."

"Anything that was wood on a window 10 years ago, is now PVC," he said. "The biggest advantage is that PVC doesn't rot; it doesn't absorb any water whatsoever."

The PVC frames support two and sometimes three panes of glass in a sealed unit that has more than twice the insulation properties of a wood or metal frame.

"For all intents and purposes, it's the last window you'll ever have to buy," Synard said.

Arctic Front is locally-owned and operated by a staff of six to 10 employees.

The company is a child of Igloo Building Supplies, which has outlets in Yellowknife and Hay River and a facility in Edmonton, from which they ship worldwide.

They ship large quantities of glass and 20-foot lengths of PVC extrusions from Edmonton and manufacture the sealed units in Hay River.

The window plant outgrew the original location and the company moved from a 261 square metre to a 657 square metre facility on Mackenzie Highway in Hay River's Old Town.

"It was a significant investment, but it was a decision that had to be made," he said. "It's worked out very, very well."

Arctic Front is now competing directly with manufacturers in Calgary and Edmonton.

"Originally, our market was almost exclusively the NWT Housing Corporation. But over the past few years it has changed, so that the private sector has become our biggest customer," he said. "Our price is competitive and, in fact, we are now selling down in Alberta."

They have more than doubled their business with residential, commercial customers and have also glassed schools and apartment buildings.

They are shipping to Alaska, Nunavut, as well as regionally into Fort Liard, which will allow expansion into Fort Nelson, B.C.

He said they also have the growing support of builders in Hay River, Fort Simpson and Fort Smith.

"People have told me that even if we're close, they'd prefer to deal with us," Synard said. "People tend to feel better about keeping the money in the community."