In the aftermath of devastating Hurricane Maria, SNC Technical Services, a subsidiary of Sitnasuak Native Corporation, provided shelter, meals and child care for its employees in Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy Sitnasuak Native Corporation
Business | National

Alaska Native corporation gets business up and running after devastating hurricane

A subsidiary of an Alaska Native corporation is back in business after its operations thousands of miles away in Puerto Rico were affected by Hurricane Maria.

Despite the long distance between Alaska and Puerto Rico, Sitnasuak Native Corporation mobilized quickly in the aftermath of the devastating storm, which destroyed thousands of homes and structures and left the island without power. SNC Technical Services managed to get back on track within days, helping employees and their families in the process.

“Our traditional Inupiat values are part of our approach to business,” Roberta (Bobbi) Quintavell, the president and CEO of Sitnasuak, which is organized as a village corporation. “We are all responsible for each other, regardless of whether you are an employee in Nome or at a subsidiary halfway around the world. As Inupiaq, we take our responsibility to take care of one another seriously.”

SNC Technical Services, which produces uniforms and tactical gear for the U.S. military, operates out of two facilities in Puerto Rico. Although the buildings, one in Camuy and the other in Orocovis, suffered some damage, power was restored quickly, allowing them to serve as shelters, cafeterias and child care centers for the 800-plus employees of the subsidiary and their families.

“Hurricane Maria devastated the island,” said Humberto Zacapa, the CEO of SNC Technical Services. “While our plants suffered relatively minor damage, our employees have nearly 300 homes with damages and 57 homes that are a total lost. We’ve tried to maintain some sense of normalcy and community by providing meals and shelter to our workers and their relatives.”

I can’t say enough how proud I am of Alaskans that are jumping into action to support Puerto Rico during recovery and...

Posted by Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Facebook: Sitnasuak Native Corp mobilizes in Puerto Rico

Days after Maria touched ground on September 16, Sitnasuak chartered flights to bring essential supplies to Puerto Rico, large portions of which remain without power. With many roads impassable and some areas inhospitable, SNC has been operating buses to transport employees and their families.

"Thank you to Ms. Quintavell and her staff for embodying their traditional Inupiat values and taking care of each other - no matter the distance," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said on Facebook in praise of Sitnasuak's work in Puerto Rico.

President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico last month, enabling the flow of federal funds to the U.S. territory. He also visited the island on October 3, along with First Lady Melania Trump.

"The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria will continue to affect our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in many different ways, and the full recovery process will likely taking many months and even years," the first lady said in a statement. "However, the resilience and determination of the people I met today will outlast any damage that was left behind."

President Donald Trump on Twitter: 'It was great to have Governor @RicardoRossello of #PuertoRico with us at the @WhiteHouse today'

More than a month after the storm hit, elected leaders and residents of the island have painted a different picture than the one offered by Trump and his administration. Some have repeatedly tangled with the president about the seemingly-slow pace of the federal government's efforts.

"Well, if it is a 10 out of a scale of 100, of course. It is still a failing grade," Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan, the island's capital, told CNN's New Day program on Friday. Trump had given himself a "perfect 10" grade when reporters asked about Puerto Rico a day earlier.

Sitnasuak Native Corporation is headquartered in Nome, Alaska, with operations in Nome, Anchorage and Wasilla in Alaska. In addition to the Puerto Rico subsidiary, the corporation runs businesses in California and Virginia. Sitnasuak is the largest village corporation in the Bering Straits region Alaska.