Posted on Mon, Jan. 22, 2007
Businesses small and large prepare for Cuba
By CHRISTINA HOAG
From small South Florida businesses run by Cuban exiles to
multinationals with sprawling global operations, many companies have
long had a Cuba plan in a drawer or a file somewhere, ready for the day
when the U.S. trade embargo is lifted.
Companies are now dusting off those business blueprints as it looks
increasingly likely that Fidel Castro's intestinal illness is terminal
or may prevent him from returning to power — paving the way, some
speculate, for an economic opening with Cuba, along the lines of China
Although the nation of 11.3 million people represents a virgin market
for all types of products and services, several sectors appear riper for
immediate investment than others.
One industry that the Cuban government is already pushing is oil and gas
exploration. Cuba boasts untapped reserves of both oil and natural gas,
and both commodities could be big revenue earners for the cash-strapped
island. But they also require significant capital investment and
technical know-how, which foreign companies have.
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., said Cuban officials were keen to
make known their interest in possible energy-sector deals during a
December Congressional fact-finding mission to the island.
''I think they would welcome American investment in that,'' he said.
“It clearly makes commercial sense.''
Housing is another sector that is in dire need of investment, both to
rehabilitate existing stocks and build new housing. Experts estimate
Cubans need some 50,000 new homes.
U.S. tourism operators are also eyeing a brand new market that is
physically easy and cheap for Americans to access, especially from South
If the embargo is lifted at some point and the Cuban economy opens up,
some businesses may still be difficult to enter. Among them: the media,
which the Cuban government may be reluctant to relinquish to foreign
investors, and sectors that rely on a consumer-driven economy, such as
Some U.S. products have won exemptions from the embargo over the years,
and despite frosty relations between Havana and Washington, such trade
has been building. Exports of agricultural products and livestock, for
example, have been underway for the past five years, and artists have
been free to establish commercial relationships with foreigners since
the early 1990s.
Delahunt sees the island as an ideal manufacturing base with a skilled
workforce and close geographic proximity to the United States.
''I think any legitimate proposal, properly vetted, would be
considered,'' he said. “My sense is that the Cubans are very open to a
Here's a look at several key sectors of the Cuban economy and
opportunities for the future.
— CHRISTINA HOAG