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Tomblin, business reps pitch trade with West Virginia in Cuba

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Potential trade and export opportunities for West Virginia were the focus of a recent two-day trade mission to Cuba that included Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, other state officials and representatives from three Mountain State businesses.

On Monday, state Department of Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said it “went better than anticipated.”

Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette

“The Cuban people were gracious and hospitable and anxious — we were met at the highest levels of government — anxious to just do business,” Burdette reported.

“It was a really unusual opportunity that we think might create some jobs in West Virginia.”

In addition to Tomblin, Burdette and other officials from the West Virginia Development Office, business representatives from Pilgrim’s Pride out of Hardy County, Multicoat from Putnam County and Industrial Bolting Technologies in Kanawha County made the trip.

“Our goal was to highlight West Virginia’s outstanding exporters and pursue opportunities for trade between our state and Cuba, and I believe we did so with great success,” Tomblin said in a statement.

In 2015, West Virginia businesses exported $5.8 billion worth of goods and services to more than 141 countries, according to the state Department of Commerce.

As the U.S. begins to normalize trade relations with Cuba, Tomblin sees the potential to add to West Virginia’s exports.

“In today’s economy, exporting is vital for business success and this is another opening for us to take the Mountain State to the world market,” Tomblin said.

John Dill, vice president of Multicoat, said he went on the trip “without any expectations” and found a strong economic market for many products, including his company’s.

“We believe this will be a game changer for our product,” Dill said in the Tomblin statement.

The Cuba trip was Tomblin’s 6th and final international trade mission as West Virginia’s chief executive.

“Governor Tomblin was literally just opening the door, hopefully, for other businesses here in West Virginia to export products to Cuba,” Burdette said during an appearance on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

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