Who Should Be The Next Governor To Visit Cuba? Hint: The State Nut Is Pecan

Who Should Be The Next Governor To Visit Cuba?
The Honorable Robert Bentley of the State of Alabama
Why?  The State’s companies and entities have strived to be first.

The State of Alabama has no peer when it comes to commercial engagement with the Republic of Cuba…    

Since 2001, Alabama-based companies have been exporters of food products and agricultural commodities (poultry) from the United States to the Republic of Cuba under provisions of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA) of 2000.

During the last six years, the Port of Mobile, Alabama, has ranked 8th of 34 United States ports that have processed exports from the United States to the Republic of Cuba.

The city of Mobile, Alabama, has been a part of the Sister Cities International program (Society Mobile-La Habana) with the city of Havana, Republic of Cuba.  In October 1993, The Honorable Michael Dow was the first mayor of a city in the United States to sign a twinning agreement with a city in the Republic of Cuba.

Paint Rock, Alabama-based Cleber LLC received authorization from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the United States Department of Commerce to create a tractor warehouse/assembly facility in Mariel Special Development Zone located near the city of Havana, Republic of Cuba.  The government of the Republic of Cuba has authorized the assembly facility.  The first year investment is US$1.4 million (which has been obtained according to the company); total long term investment US$5 million.

Foley, Alabama-based GulfWise Commerce LLC (www.gulfwisecommerce.com), affiliated with 100-year-old Foley, Alabama-based The Woerner Companies (2015 revenues exceeded US$40 million; www.woerner.com), received a license from the BIS on 31 March 2016 to export advanced planting and harvesting equipment valued at US$108,184.00.  The BIS application was submitted at the end of January 2016.

The purchaser is Republic of Cuba government-operated Tecnotex SA for use by the Republic of Cuba government-operated Indio Hatuey Research Station, a Matanzas, Republic of Cuba-based agricultural research institution.  Tecnotex SA (affiliated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Republic of Cuba) imports equipment, technology, and construction materials.  

The equipment, which is being manufactured in Alabama and expected to be delivered soon through the Port of Mobile, Alabama, will assist in establishing grass-covered areas for purposes ranging from erosion control to the creation of pasturage and the establishment or improvement of parks and recreational areas, such as playgrounds and sport facilities.

The discussions commenced in 2014 when GulfWise Commerce LLC initiated a dialogue with researchers at the University of Matanzas regarding multiple agriculture production issues in the Republic of Cuba.  That dialogue led to an assessment of specialized equipment needed and to subsequent negotiations for a possible sale, which led to an application to the BIS.  

Representatives of GulfWise LLC and The Woerner Companies have made five (5) visits to the Republic of Cuba; the first in 2012.  Two representatives of the Indio Hatuey Research Station visited Alabama in 2015.

Significant about the transaction is the decision by the government of the Republic of Cuba to not focus upon a United States-based multinational (for example, Illinois-based Caterpillar or Illinois-based John Deere), but rather have the first export to the Republic of Cuba of durable (non-healthcare-related) commercial equipment be from a private company.

GulfWise Commerce LLC is also seeking to import fruit (papayas, mangoes, pineapples, bananas, and coffee beans) from the Republic of Cuba to be processed at a dehydration and food ingredient facility under construction (completion date June 2016) near the Port of Mobile.  The United States Department of State added coffee to its list of authorized imports from the Republic of Cuba in April 2016, provided the coffee is grown/processed/marketed by independent cooperatives as defined by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury.

Woerner Companies, Inc. is opening a new division called Bon Secour Valley Ingredients (BSVI) in Foley, Alabama. This new division will diversify the family to focus on sustainable agriculture by producing prepared foods and ingredients. BSVI is opening a 40,000 sq.ft. facility that will operate multiple dehydration, roasting, and extrusion lines to convert perishable fruits and vegetables into a more sustainable dehydrated form that will not require refrigeration, maintain a longer shelf life all while providing an all-natural product with healthy nutritional value. The main ingredients for the initial plant production will consist of: chicory, sweet potatoes, bananas, carrots, sweet corn, bread fruit, butternut squash, kale and pumpkin. Our focus is to go straight from the farm to BSVI for dehydration and then to your home in the form of a dehydrated banana, smoothie mix, powdered chicory and so much more.”

Mr. Robert L. Muse, the Washington, DC-based attorney who represented GulfWise Commerce LLC in the BIS equipment-licensing process, said the significance of the transaction is “… the government of Cuba clearly rewarded the patient efforts of a privately-owned company willing to invest the time to identify and fill the needs of Cuba’s rapidly changing rural economic landscape.”