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Regional Chamber, Valley Leaders Visit Cuba to Explore Exporting Opportunities

April 4, 2016


Regional Chamber Senior Vice President of Economic Development Sarah Boyarko was part of a group of eight leaders—including three from the Valley—who traveled to Cuba last week to explore exporting opportunities. The group, comprising elected officials, companies and consultants, was exposed to Cuban culture, specific business opportunities and Cuban education and government officials.


Boyarko said this trip—the first of several that will take place—was an introductory opportunity to explore exporting opportunities within the approved industries of agriculture, building and construction materials, telecommunications, energy and other equipment and tools to support Cuban entrepreneurs.


“We left there with a better understanding of the rules and regulations of doing business in Cuba, including workforce and cultural differences,” she noted. “Our group not only explored individual opportunities but also how we can work together on common goals.” 


While there, the group, which included General Extrusions, Inc. CEO Herb Schuler, Jr.; Columbiana Boiler Company CEO Michael Sherwin; and Newton Falls Mayor Lyle Waddell, met with the Associated Press, Chief of Bureau of Cuba; Dorys Quintana Cruz, Relations Specialist, Union of Cuban Lawyers; Elpidio Perez, Foreign Investment Expert, Union of Cuban Lawyers; Dra. Carola Salas Couce, Titular Professor, Center for International Economic Investigations, University of Havana; and Leima Martinez, Cuban Institute of Friendship.


“To have the chance to understand the Cuban people and their culture was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity,” said Sherwin. “While there are business opportunities, this is a work in progress and will be a complete commitment to Cuba and its people and culture.”


Schuler added, “It really is the land that time forgot. The situation in Cuba has been unfortunate, but hopefully, the times are changing.”


Mayor Waddell also noted that the trip was educational and business oriented but also gave the group good insight into the cultural and residential aspects of Cuba.


The Regional Chamber partnered with—and the trip was organized by—To Cuba Now, an organization that has developed a team in the U.S. and Cuba to provide the knowledge, experience, relationships and insights necessary to develop a winning strategy for organizations. Understanding Cuba's strategic priorities and plans is critical to any company interested in doing business in Cuba.


Every day since the announcement of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana and Cuba's in Washington, there have been reports of U.S. companies, big and small, starting to do business in Cuba. However, most are "intending to go," "developing plans" or "evaluating opportunities." That's because, despite the loosening of U.S. regulations, Cuba remains a disciplined, thoughtful and patient country. It has its own strategic plan for industry growth, private enterprise development and foreign direct investment.


The first step in evaluating an emerging market must be to establish relationships "on the ground." The Regional Chamber is establishing those connections and relationships for a successful outcome and plans to remain in communication with the contacts made on the trip, while aggressively exploring the opportunities generated.


If you would like to learn more about exporting opportunities in Cuba or may want to be part of the next trip, contact Boyarko at (330) 744-2131, ext. 17, or email


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