Minnesota Leaders Launch Engage Cuba State Council

MINNEAPOLIS – Today, Engage Cuba, the leading coalition of private businesses and organizations working to end the travel and trade embargo on Cuba, launched its Minnesota State Council at an event co-sponsored by Global Minnesota. The Minnesota Council is comprised of agribusiness, community leaders, major corporations and academic leaders who have joined together to support a new relationship between the United States and Cuba. These leaders believe this new relationship will benefit local businesses and support the Cuban people. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Tom Emmer, both of whom recently returned from a historic trip to Cuba as part of President Obama’s U.S. delegation, joined the launch of the Minnesota State Council.
“Minnesota’s agriculture, biomedical, and energy sectors are thriving. Opening up trade to Cuba and expanding investment opportunities for Minnesota businesses is critical to helping local businesses and the Cuban people,” said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba. “The Engage Cuba Minnesota State Council is proud to have the support of Sen. Klobuchar and Rep. Emmer, who have long advocated for renewed ties with our Cuban neighbors. It is now on their colleagues in Congress to listen to the majority of Americans calling for an end to our Cold War-era policies and to lift the embargo.”

“I am proud to lead the bipartisan effort in the Senate to lift the trade embargo with Cuba so that we can boost exports and create jobs in Minnesota and across the United States. In Minnesota alone, exports to Cuba could double if the embargo were lifted,” said Klobuchar. “Our historic visit last week to Cuba was a major step forward in modernizing our relationship with this country of 11 million people only 90 miles off our shore. The new Minnesota State Council of the Engage Cuba Coalition will help us build on the momentum toward lifting the embargo and allowing Cubans greater access to American-made goods and products."
“I’m very proud of the Engage Cuba Minnesota State Coalition and am proud to be here for its launch,” Emmer said. “This coalition is built upon a foundation across our political spectrum, academia, human rights advocates, farmers, manufacturers and business leaders. Together, they see that our unilateral embargo not only harms our foreign policy, but also our economy which has led to the isolation of the United States internationally and in our own hemisphere. We must use this event to build a brighter future for both the Cuban and the American people through lifting the Cuba embargo.”
Opening up Cuba to U.S. trade opportunities would allow Minnesota businesses to reach more than 11 million new customers on the Island. Minnesota is a leader in the renewable energy sector, an area that Cuba has committed hundreds of millions of dollars in projects such as wind farms and is seeking outside investment to help expand their energy sector. And with Minnesota serving as one of the country’s largest exporter of agricultural goods, the state’s agribusiness industry could see exponential growth into Cuba with Minnesota-grown commodities such as soy, corn, and livestock production.

The Engage Cuba Minnesota State Council is made up of leaders across sectors in Minnesota. The full list includes:
·         Cargill, Inc.
·         Jason Adkins - Executive Director & General Counsel, Minnesota Catholic Conference
·         Eric Canny - Dean of Global Education, Augsburg College
·         Tom Carman - VP Human Resources & Administration, Wenger Corporation
·         Carl Casale - President & CEO, CHS Inc.
·         Dave Frederickson - Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
·         Jeff Grev - Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Hormel Foods Corporation
·         Rodolfo Gutierrez - Executive Director, Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research
·         Lyndel King -  President, Weisman Art Museum
·         Mike Noonan - Vice President, Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc.
·         Steven Olsen - Executive Director, Minnesota Turkey Growers
·         Kevin Paap - President, Minnesota Farm Bureau
·         Doug Peterson - President, Minnesota Farmers Union
·         Eric Schwartz, Dean, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, The University of Minnesota
·         Kevin Smith, President & CEO, Minnesota Orchestra
·         Natalie Volin Lehr, Director of Corporate Affairs, Carlson Rezidor Hotels Group
·         Aasha Wanless, Director of Trade Compliance, Polaris Industries Inc.
·         John Wiehoff - CEO, C.H. Robinson Worldwide
·         Bob Zelenka, Executive Director, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association
·         Marvin Zutz, Executive Director, Minnesota Barley Council
The Minnesota State Council will join other state councils that have formed in Louisiana, Tennessee and Ohio. This network of state councils mobilizes grassroots support among community leaders, who believe it’s time for significant policy changes to the U.S.-Cuba relationship by lifting the Cuban embargo.