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Mayor's Trip To Cuba Sets Groundwork For Future Business Relationship

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A mission to Havana, Cuba, over the Memorial Day weekend will bring dividends to Pittsburgh-based companies, Mayor Bill Peduto predicts.

"What they really need right now is construction, engineering, they need new homes, they need the ability to have manufacturing, and so that's what we brought," Peduto told KDKA money & politics editor Jon Delano on Thursday. "We had a delegation that represented companies that do business around the world."

With Peduto's help, the delegation met with the minister of finance, the vice minister of construction, the president of the Cuban chamber of commerce, and the deputy director of the Port of Muriel, Cuba.

The goal?

"It was to begin those business relationships, to learn how to do business, and to identify opportunities for Pittsburgh-based manufacturers for when the trade embargo is lifted," said Petra Mitchell of Catalyst Connections, a local non-profit economic development organization.

Mitchell was part of the delegation.

"There are tremendous opportunities," says Mitchell.

Cuba is in a bit of a time-warp.

The mayor shared his photos and the cars they were driven around in are vintage.

And lots of historic buildings are in need of maintenance.

While the president can and will normalize diplomatic relations and reopen embassies, only the Republican-controlled Congress can repeal the trade embargo that keeps Americans from doing business in Cuba.

Peduto is optimistic.

"A push from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business leaders are telling Republicans that this has to happen," said Peduto.

The mayor says he wants Pittsburgh companies to create relationships before the embargo is lifted.

"The companies that help to rebuild this country that is the same size as Pennsylvania, and will be part of that economic development, are the ones that get there before that happens," says Peduto.

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