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Obama Administration Approves New Factory … In Cuba

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter

President Barack Obama’s administration approved an Alabama company’s plan to build a new manufacturing plant in Cuba last week, opening the door to the construction of as many as 1,000 small tractors a year.

The new plant will be the first from the U.S. in Cuba in more than 50 years, reported The Associated Press, in consequence of Obama’s decision to thaw relations with the country. The Department of Treasury told business partners Horace Clemmons and Saul Berenthal last week their plan was approved, allowing them to legally take advantage of a special Cuban economic zone designed to attract foreign investors.

The new $5 million to $10 million plant is expected to start pumping tractors into the Cuban economy by 2017. It’s the first major U.S. investment into Cuba since Fidel Castro provoked a long-standing U.S. embargo by nationalizing billions of dollars worth of U.S. oil refineries and private property.

Berenthal is a semi-retired software engineer who left Cuba when he was 16, and told The AP he’s thrilled to be able to return. “I have two countries that for 60 years have been in the worst of terms,” he said. “Anything I can do to bring to the two countries and the two people together is tremendously satisfying.”

Berenthal and Clemmons are starting the factory with their own cash and commitments from private investors. They’ve had a working relationship since their days at IBM in the 1970s and then went on to start a successful software company they sold for a substantial sum of money in 1995.

The news follows a viral video released this week of a room full of U.S. workers learning their company is moving 1,400 jobs and an entire plant to Mexico, in order to stay competitive. (RELATED: 5 Signs Increasing Immigration Is Hurting U.S. Workers)

“The best way to stay competitive and protect the business for long-term is to move production from our facility in Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico,” a man speaking on behalf of the company says in the video to a large crowd of employees in a gymnasium-like room.

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