Small Alabama Tractor Company Setting Up Shop in Cuba
First American firm since Castro's revolution
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 15, 2016 9:22 AM CST
Saul Berenthal, a partner in the tractor company, poses for a portrait in his office in Raleigh, NC.   (Gerry Broome)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – The Obama administration has approved the first US factory in Cuba in more than half a century: A two-man company from Alabama received the green light to build a plant to assemble small tractors for private farmers there, reports the AP. The Treasury Department last week notified partners Horace Clemmons and Saul Berenthal that they can legally build tractors and other heavy equipment in a special economic zone started by the Cuban government to attract foreign investment. Cuban officials already have publicly and enthusiastically endorsed the project. The partners said they expect to be building tractors in Cuba by the first quarter of 2017 and plan to churn out as many as 1,000 a year.

"Everybody wants to go to Cuba to sell something and that's not what we're trying to do," says Clemmons. Instead, he said, the company asked, "How do we help Cuba solve the problems that they consider are the most important?" The $5 million to $10 million plant will be the first significant US business investment on Cuban soil since Fidel Castro took power in 1959 and nationalized billions of dollars of US corporate and private property. Clemmons and Berenthal are former IBM engineers who went into business together decades ago. Their company is called Cleber.