By JACK WEATHERLY
The Thomasson Co. of Philadelphia has signed a contract to provide 1,000 utility poles to the Puerto Rican national utility.
The U.S. territory in the Caribbean was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September and its power company is running at about half capacity.
Brent Gray, president of Thomasson, said the $1 million contact is for 55-foot wooden poles.
Thomasson will send some of the order and “we’ll just have to see how it goes,” Gray said, declining to disclose how much of the order will be sent. He called it a “decent-sized” order.
The Puerto Electric Power Co., or PREPA, is owned by the Puerto Rican government and has come under criticism for its handling of a $300 million contract with a Montana-based company.
“The company was paying some subcontractors about one-seventh what it billed [PREPA],” The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Two congressional committees are reviewing the case.
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosello has asked President Donald Trump for $94 billion in aid, including $18 billion for the utility, The Times has reported.
Rosello was to appear before Congress on Tuesday. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in national elections. However, they can immigrate to the United States just as an American can move from one state to another.
In another matter, Gray said that efforts by the company to do business with Cuba have “cooled” in the wake of Trump’s recent issuance of restrictions on trade with the communist island nation.
The Thomasson Co. visited Cuba in a February trip sponsored by the Mississippi Development Authority and was preparing to offer a bid on selling power poles to the state-owned utility, Gray said in an interview in June.
“Unless there’s some political bad blood, I don’t see an issue” with doing business in Cuba, Gray said at the time.
Even though the company did not realize any business out of the trip, “I’m good with that,” Gray said Tuesday. “They don’t have democracy and they feed the people the information that they want them to hear.”
The company has done business in Central and South America and in the Philippines, he said in an earlier interview.
As for the Puerto Rican deal, “it’s not easy doing business with a government and a utility that doesn’t have any money,” he said.
He said he doesn’t know of any other Mississippi business trying to do business with Puerto Rico.