Trade mission to Cuba aims to capitalize on opportunities for Kentucky businesses

Screen shot 2015-08-19 at 8.24.23 AMLate last week, the United States raised its flag atop the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, signifying renewed diplomatic talks between the two countries after 54 years of limited and contentious relations.

For some in the business community, there is hope that the talks could lead to a lift on the trade embargo on Cuba, which would open the doors for business partnerships between the two countries.

That’s why Lexington-based World Trade Center Kentucky is helping lead an exploratory mission to Cuba from Oct. 20 to 24. The mission is designed to assist Kentucky businesses establish relationships in Cuba in the event that business deals are sanctioned between the two countries, according to a news release. In particular, the trade mission will look for opportunities in the automotive, medical, agriculture and education fields.

World Trade Center Kentucky works to accelerate international trade and economic development through innovation, education, trade advisory services and business trade missions.

It’s co-sponsoring the trade mission with Louisville-based Blue Equity LLC. Jonathan Blue, chairman and managing director of Blue Equity LLC, has been vocal about his support of business relations between the United States and Cuba and has assembled a team to assess business opportunities in Cuba.

In the August publication of Private Funds Management, Blue wrote an article in which he explained the appeal of Cuba and argued that there are investment opportunities but also challenges. He noted that Cuba’s removal from the U.S. terrorist list has opened banking opportunities between the two nations.

“For private equity to have a real shot of flourishing in Cuba, which I should mention is less than 90 miles away from the U.S., we need full removal of the embargo,” Blue wrote in the article. “And even if that happens, it’s important to remember that you will in one capacity or another be partnering with the Cuban government to conduct deals, which is its own kind of risk. An investor should keep in mind that in some permissible areas of investment that the government becomes an equity or joint venture partner.”

Callie Jahn, communications coordinator for World Trade Center Kentucky, said Blue’s personal visits to Cuba, his experience with international trade and business and his business contacts in Cuba have been beneficial in putting the trade mission together.

Jahn said only 15 spots are available for the mission at a cost of $3,999 per person, which will include airfare from Miami, hotel accommodations, food and other travel costs. But the cost does not include travel to Miami, where guests will spend the first night of the mission.

An itinerary released by World Trade Center Kentucky shows multiple stops are planned in Cuba, including the Cuban Chamber of Commerce and a cigar factory and tobacco plantation. A trip to the U.S. Embassy is in the process of being arranged, Jahn said.

Members of the delegation also will meet with local entrepreneurs and business owners to discuss Cuba’s economy and business opportunities.

For more information about taking part in the exploratory mission, contact Sherry Mulkins, vice president of client outreach and membership for World Trade Center Kentucky, at

By Marty Finley, The Business Journals

August 17, 2015

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