Companies compete for Haiti cleanup contracts

Published 16 February 2010

Cleaning up after the Haiti earthquake, in which some 225,000 homes and at least 25,000 government and office buildings collapsed, is big business; American clean-up companies with political muscle are vying for lucrative contracts

The cleanup of earthquake damage could revitalize Haiti's economy by providing much-needed jobs // Source:

As Haiti begins digging out from under 60 million cubic meters of earthquake wreckage, U.S. companies have begun jockeying for a bonanza of cleanup work. It is unclear at this point who will be awarding the cleanup contracts, but there is big money to be made in the rubble of some 225,000 collapsed homes and at least 25,000 government and office buildings.

Miami Herald’s Martha Brannigan and Jacqueline Charles write that at least two politically connected U.S. companies have enlisted powerful local allies in Haiti to help compete for the high-stakes business. Randal Perkins, head of Pompano Beach, Florida-based AshBritt, has already met with President Rene Preval to tout his firm’s skills. To press his case, Perkins, a big U.S. political donor with a stable of powerful lobbyists, has lined up a wealthy and influential Haitian businessman, Gilbert Bigio, as a partner.

Perkins is not the only hard-charging contender for cleanup work. Another is Bob Isakson, managing director of Mobile, Alabama-based DRC Group, a disaster recovery firm whose resume includes hurricanes, wars, ice storms and floods. He has also met with Preval since the earthquake.

How the work is delegated and who ends up awarding the contracts remains to be seen, but Preval is expected to play a pivotal role in setting priorities, even if others hold the purse strings.

We don’t know who’s going to fund the cleanup and how it’s going to proceed. That’s all a mystery,” DRC’s Isakson said. “But cleaned up it has to be.”

Brannigan and Charles write that in his 28 January meeting with Preval, which was attended by a McClatchy Newspapers reporter who was chronicling a day in the president’s life, Perkins made a hard sell, boasting of AshBritt’s $900-million U.S. government contract to clean up after Hurricane Katrina and promising his firm would create 20,000 local jobs. “It does no good if you bring in predominantly U.S. labor and when it’s done, they leave. This is an opportunity to train thousands of Haitian people in skills and professions,” Perkins, a 45-year-old Sweetwater, Florida, native, told McClatchy Newspapers. “If you don’t create jobs for Haitians, your recovery is going to be a failure.”

AshBritt, Perkins said, also has clinched a coveted contract to handle future disaster cleanup work for the U.S. government in California and several other states. “First and foremost, we have the experience,” Perkins said.

Brannigan and Charles note that that experience has come with controversy. After Katrina,