Washington — It's not something Joe Barr ever expected to be doing: answering questions from the president of the United States about his company's rotationally molded rain catcher barrels.
But there he was, improbably, in a hallway in the White House in mid-July, standing next to his 100-gallon sandstone-colored polyethylene barrel and talking with President Donald Trump.
Barr, co-owner of Desert Plastics LLC in Albuquerque, N.M., had been invited to the White House for the July 17 kickoff of Made in America Week.
Desert was New Mexico's representative at the event. In an interview two weeks later, he said he still had absolutely no idea why his small company, with just 11 employees and one Ferry rotomolding machine, got the invitation.
But it was an opportunity, personally and for the business, that he couldn't pass up.
It was all extremely last minute. The White House called Friday, July 14, and, after some initial disbelief for Barr and his colleagues — "we thought it was some come-on to get the owner on the telephone" — the representative for the president asked if Barr could be there Monday morning, with his company's products.
"It comes down to while you're on the phone with those people, you have to make a commitment," Barr said. "We're not even exactly sure, if we're shipping on Friday, who can deliver to a hotel in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. But it's got to be that way."
Shipping a 100-gallon barrel across the country in two days is not easy. It scrambled and found a company guaranteeing Sunday night delivery — for a pricey $2,000.
(It was so expensive, in fact, that Barr said he decided to leave the barrel behind in Washington, giving it to a White House butler who said he'd always wanted one.)
The logistics all worked out, the barrel arrived at the hotel, and three days after the initial call, Barr found himself standing in the East Wing as Trump was being directed down the hall, stopping to talk to various companies.
An aide motioned the president to Barr's table.
"He came over, very cordial person, a little serious," Barr said. "He asked me some questions about it, a minute, a minute and a half.