Town man Gary helps connect 15,000 Iraqi homes to electricity

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Former Portadown man Gary Hughes, who runs his own engineering business in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has finished a four-month contract in Iraq – connecting 150,000 households in Basra to electricity.

Maybe his upbringing in troubled Northern Ireland during the 1960s and ‘70s stood him in good stead, for Gary and his team had to wear bullet-proof vests as they installed the giant generators that supplied the town in southern Iraq!

The hard-working team completed the job well on time, and Gary said, “What we did is a major feat that no large engineering company could do. We broke all the rules to get these units on line.

“There was not one week where anybody worked under 100 hours. We by-passed normal procedures. If you could see how poor people are there and desperate for electricity, I think most people would understand.”

They worked in temperature up to 120 degrees!

The engineers were transported to and from the compound in armoured vehicles with inch-thick bulletproof glass. The site was protected by armed guards.

Gary (52), whose firm is called HTS, recruited six subcontractors from around the world — South Africa, Maine, New York and the Dominican Republic — to join him. The contract was a cool $4 million for commissioning the two turbines and supporting their operation for three years.

Gary grew up in Churchill Park, then Ballyoran Park. He was educated at St Malachy’s (now Drumcree College) after which he went to London and then the States.

He has two sons, Connor and Ryan and a daughter Erin – he has high hopes that one of them will inherit his successful business, of which he is sole proprietor.

He added, “I’ve been an independent contractor in the power industry for more than 20 years and have worked everywhere from Peru to the Middle East. I started my own company in January. I currently have five engineers working for HTS but we are actively seeking more.”

He added, “In my spare time I play golf, and I try to get home to Portadown once per year. My mother and father were Margaret and Danny Hughes, my father owned Trade Signs in Lurgan, which is now owned by my brother Jim and brother in law Gerald. I have two sisters, Debbie who lives in Ballyoran Park, and Tricia who lives in Lurgan.”