Friday, June 26, 2015

Cuba big for Bay area business? Not so fast

Cuba big for Bay area business? Not so fast
Grayson Kamm, WTSP 10:41 a.m. EDT June 25, 2015

Tampa, Florida -- Not so fast! One of Florida's most influential leaders
says Cuba may not be Tampa Bay's next big business opportunity.

For months, we've shown you how groups from the Bay area have been
traveling to Cuba. They're making connections and looking for serious
business growth as America warms up its relationship with Cuba.

But we have a new perspective for you from one of the most respected
leaders in the state. It's a major downside that could hurt Florida if
America's relationship with Cuba truly opens up.

Former Florida Governor Bob Martinez told me this is not about politics,
it's just the facts. Because Cuba is so pretty, things may not be pretty
for Florida in the long run.

The governor told me opening trade with Cuba suddenly opens up a major
competitor to Florida tourism. That is Florida's biggest industry; one
out of every nine jobs in Florida is connected to tourism.

I did the math, and for a tourist flying from New York to Tampa, it's
just an extra 30 minutes on a plane for them to take their family -- and
their money -- to Havana.

"People, instead of coming to Florida -- whether it's Orlando, Tampa-St.
Petersburg, or Miami -- have another destination," Martinez told me in
the law offices of Holland & Knight, where he works as a senior policy

If Cuban travel is unrestricted, Cuba becomes an exotic Caribbean
destination just 90 miles away from the United States -- where a
tourist's dollar can buy a lot more than in Florida.

"And it becomes a place to go -- the forbidden fruit. So you want to go
there, because for decades you were not allowed to go there," Martinez said.

Martinez also made the point to me that Cuba may not the big trading
partner that some leaders in Tampa Bay are hoping for.

The average American salary is more than 100 times what a typical Cuban
makes, which is around $20 a month. Every other economic statistic tells
a similar story.

Martinez argues the country and its people don't have the money for the
type of major commerce that could boost Tampa Bay.

"They'll need money to buy lumber -- to buy anything," Martinez told me.

"And unless the United States lends them the money, or the World Bank
lends them the money, or somebody lends them the money, they can't pay
for any supplies, equipment, or anything else. 'Cause they're broke!"

Martinez pointed out that while America has blocked trade with Cuba for
53 years, other countries have traded freely with them. And nobody has
seen a magical business boom from Cuba.

Right now, the Obama administration has warmed up the relationship with
Cuba and made some changes, but it would take an act of Congress to end
the embargo that has stopped most trade since 1962.

Source: Cuba big for Bay area business? Not so fast -

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