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Morris epoxy lab receives funding

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 03/24/2018 8:45 AM

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EcoPoxy CEO Jack Maendel presents Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler with an epoxy-accented wooden cutting board made by Mike Cancade, executive assistant to Provencher MP Ted Falk. Maendel says his company, located near Morris, will use $167,000 in joint government funding to purchase much-needed packaging and testing equipment.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

EcoPoxy CEO Jack Maendel presents Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler with an epoxy-accented wooden cutting board made by Mike Cancade, executive assistant to Provencher MP Ted Falk. Maendel says his company, located near Morris, will use $167,000 in joint government funding to purchase much-needed packaging and testing equipment.

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An innovative epoxy resin company near Morris has received $167,000 in combined government funding that its CEO says will dramatically hasten testing and packaging procedures.

Manitoba’s agriculture minister, Ralph Eichler, made the announcement March 15 at EcoPoxy’s headquarters, located off Highway 23 about 10 kilometres east of Morris.

"I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time," remarked CEO Jack Maendel.

The dollars were provided through Growing Forward 2, a five-year agricultural funding partnership between Ottawa and the provinces, a spokesperson for Eichler said.

The province contributed 40 percent of the sum, while the federal government provided the remainder.

"Initiatives like these help strengthen our economy and create good middle-class jobs for Manitobans, and will reduce our environmental footprint," federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay said in a statement.

EcoPoxy is expected to add two more positions to its current staff of 15 as a result of the investment, a provincial press release stated.

Maendel said the funds will allow the company to install specialized quality testing equipment in its on-site laboratory.

The company will also buy a piston filler and heat sealer to automate its packaging process.

The new machinery will quicken the pace of order fulfilment, currently done by hand, and slash test result turnaround from three weeks to two days, Maendel said.

"Every time our chemists make a new formulation and they mix the product, the next question is, how good is it, how strong is it, how hard is it?" he explained.

Answering those questions used to cost $2,500 per test at Winnipeg’s Composites Innovation Centre. Maendel said that’s a bill he looks forward to sidestepping.

Eichler later told The Carillon that turnaround time during the research and development stage is an important factor affecting a business’s reputation.

Manitoba Agriculture was attracted by EcoPoxy’s commitment to local, environmentally-friendly production, the minister added.

"Anytime we can have finished product leave the Province of Manitoba, that helps immensely in our green plan," he said.

Using bio-based ingredients like soybean oil, cashew nut oil, and recycled eggshells, EcoPoxy manufactures epoxies and resins that are far less toxic than traditional coatings, Maendel said.

The company, housed in a converted honey plant, makes products that carry a variety of applications, from decorative home projects to automotive and marine uses.

In the EcoPoxy showroom, Maendel displayed colourful, swirled custom countertops and cutting boards, and said coffee tables, flooring, and jewelry are also becoming popular.

While the company’s renewables content currently stands at 53 percent, Maendel said that number could rise if Manitoba had a soy processing facility.

"Our goal is to be that plant’s largest customer of soybean oil," he said.

While some ingredients are sourced from Manitoba, many others are currently imported, as EcoPoxy requires a highly refined form of soybean oil stripped of all saturated fatty acids, Maendel explained.

Eichler said the province has had "a number of conversations" with investors that have yet to yield the necessary commitment.

Manitoba’s market for soybean meal, used in livestock feed, currently outstrips demand for soybean oil, Eichler explained.

"That’s been our problem in attracting a processor to Manitoba, is that we don’t have enough market for the oil," he said.

"You’ve got to have enough to make the thing profitable, at the end of the day."

In the meantime, Maendel said EcoPoxy is focusing on research and development, and on developing supply partnerships with Southeast retailers, including Janzen’s Paint and Decorating in Steinbach.

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