Whitefish Energy Holdings, the Montana-based company charged with the critical task of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s decimated power transmission lines, has little history demonstrating its ability to complete the Herculean task for which it was hired.
Nevertheless, the company has made significant promises of performance in its brief, two-year lifespan.
Based on reporting uncovered by FloridaPolitics.com, what Whitefish has failed to do is deliver on those promises, raising further questions about the wisdom of the decision by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) — following the guidance of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) — to trust the two-employee subsidiary of a Brazilian transformer manufacturer with such a critical project in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Founded in 2015, Whitefish is a tiny, untested company with merely two employees and a paltry $1 million in annual revenue. Since its inception, the firm has been awarded three meager federal contracts, one of which was valued below $40,000.
Despite the company’s brief and unproven track record, the USACE and PREPA have chosen Whitefish to repair some of the most critical components of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, an immense task that is central to the island’s overall recovery efforts. In addition to its remarkable inexperience, Whitefish’s history of empty promises and unseen results prompts questions about its ability to carry out such crucial work.
In 2016, Whitefish made much of its lofty plans to construct a transformer-manufacturing facility in Montana’s Flathead Valley. The plant, CEO Andy Techmanski held, would create 1,000 new jobs and produce quality large-scale transformers for the U.S. market. Ultimately, despite the company’s talk and claims, Whitefish failed to deliver on its hollow promise, due mainly to its inability to obtain financial backing for its project.
Whitefish, which shifted its focus to the production of transformers after being acquired by Brazil-based Comtrafo, was unable to secure the local and regional utility contracts and preorders needed to justify and fund the construction of its proposed facility. To date, it seems, there has been no mention of or progress on the Montana plant.
So, while Whitefish Energy cannot secure regional contracts for its primary line of work — producing large-scale transformers — the USACE and PREPA have charged the company with, arguably, the most important aspect of Puerto Rico’s recovery. Such a decision should raise concerns about the federal government’s commitment to Puerto Rico and its people.
An obscure, inexperienced company — one that cannot even find work and deliver results in its own backyard — should not be tasked with such a pivotal role on the Caribbean territory. Puerto Rico, an island of 3.4 million U.S. citizens, cannot afford empty promises at such an urgent time.