Southern states stand to gain the most if U.S. trade with Cuba is normalized, according to a University of South Alabama professor.
Speaking Friday to business leaders and elected officials from throughout the South, Seemon Chang, director of USA’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said the center estimates that Southern states would gain about 60,000 new jobs if trade with Cuba resumed.
Chang was among the speakers at the 2005 National Summit on Cuba, held at the Mobile Convention Center.
Winthrop M. Hallett III, spokesperson for the Gulf Coast Regional Chamber Coalition, comprised of five chambers of commerce—Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mobile area and Pensacola—said it’s “natural that Gulf Coast communities seek to access and pursue opportunities with a developing nation of 11 million people just off our shores. Before the embargo,” Hallett said, “trade and exchange with Cuba was an important part of our economy, and it could be again.”
Michael Olivier, who heads economic development for the state of Louisiana, noted that Cuba was Louisiana’s largest trading partner until 1960.
Ron Sparks, head of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, said sales to Cuba currently have “a total impact of $300 million” on the Alabama economy. “U.S. poultry sales alone have jumped 330 percent due to current Cuba trade,” he said, adding that “40 percent of the (U.S.) poultry industry is in our state.”
In his remarks, Tim Lynch, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis at Florida State University, predicted that Florida could gain almost 30,000 jobs and increase state output by almost $2.3 billion over the next three decades if normalization of trade with Cuba were to begin this year.