Courtesy of interviewee

Under the maxim: “On the road to sustainable and lasting industrial development,” the second International Cuban Industry Convention scheduled to take place June 20-24 in Havana’s Convention Center, will be marked by the growing protagonism of non-state forms of management in generating productive linkages associated with this sector.

With broad interest from Cuban entities, researches and businesspeople, the event organized by Cuba’s Ministry of Industries (Mindus) in association with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, will feature over a dozen theoretic encounters focusing on scientific-technical collaboration, strengthening technology, developing exportable product lines and consolidating nationally produced goods.

Parallel to the event, the Pabexpo exposition center will host a trade and exhibition fair - CubaIndustria 2016 - in order to bring together and promote exchanges between sector workers. This is where the Non-Agricultural Cooperative (CAN) Decorarte, co-sponsor of the event, plays a key role.

According to Ariel Balmaseda, president of the Varadero based CNA, specializing in advertisement and graphic, industrial and interior design, the opening up of non-state forms of management and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, are helping to stimulate the growth of business on the island and new ideas which are then turned into exclusive products, both unique and competitive.

This idea led to the creation of Gabi & Sofi, a brand offering simple products which will be officially launched during the CubaIndustria event, under the label “Varadero Original,” and offers a wide range of personalized children’s products, from furniture to clothes.

“We have been developing four of our own brands, but the first to be launched will be Gabi & Sofi, inspired by the lives of two Cuban children and is ready to go international. Likewise, the cooperative has sufficient technology to create and maintain this line, as we don’t depend on third parties to produce it, which also means quality is maintained and the identity of the brand protected,” stated Balmaseda.

In this regard, the CNA president noted, “We want to defend values linked to childhood and move away from violence,” adding that the initiative aims to promote good habits and manners, family values, protection of the environment, and respect for life and peace.

The garments designed by Gabi & Sofi are made of soft fabrics which can be used for both day-to-day and beach wear. One of the most striking aspects of the brand, whose clothing products are designed by Senén Calero, is its line of educational toys, the majority made from wood, which help children think, build and learn. We have worked almost exclusively with easy-to-handle, environmentally friendly materials, explained Balmaseda.

Thus, Pabexpo will serve as witness, June 22, to the launch of a colorful collection of products, which will also include music, fashion, and theater performances. Balmaseda stated that the product comes in large part as a response to demand of the children’s market in Cuba’s number one beach resort, noting to Granma International that all products displayed during the event will then be donated to children’s homes in Cuba.

Once the brand has been officially launched, the cooperative is planning to sell its products in stores in Havana, Matanzas and Cienfuegos, and in particular in the Hicacos Peninsula, where the CAN is involved in several remodeling projects. Meanwhile, work is underway to create 3D animation models of Gabi & Sofi to later be turned into an animated series.

Balmaseda noted that today Decorarte is one thing, but by the time CubaIndustria is over, it will be another. “The encounter will enable us to take on large volumes of production and establish contact with foreign markets. The most useful thing we have learned after three years of existence has been realizing the importance of designing a product well,” he noted.

“Cuban industry tends to produce, but not always good quality, attractive products,” stated Balmaseda. As such Decorarte understands that its main achievements are the result of constant investment in high-standard technology and the fact that with over 400 clients nationwide, the cooperative has been able to substitute imports.
He noted that knowing how to combine a comprehensive service in a single product, and offer excellent customer service in order to ensure client loyalty, has been the key to the success of this Matanzas based CNA.

Amidst a panorama demanding the modernization of Cuban industry, taking from the most successful experiences worldwide, efforts focused on intensifying the re-structuring and reorganization of the sector, centralizing production and the rational use of facilities and unused equipment, will be vital to this objective.

According to Adriana Barceló, Mindus director of Industrial Management and vice president of the CubaIndustria organizing committee, after inviting sector companies from around the world, representatives from over 30 countries are expected to attend, a greater number of participants than the first edition of the event in 2014, with entities from Spain, China and Italy predominating.

Barceló also noted that the implementation of policies to improve the country’s industry and the progress of national and foreign investment projects, add a unique quality to an event which will receive Russia as guest country of honor, and feature the participation of over 10 Industry Ministers and some 100 U.S. companies interested in establishing relations with Cuba.

The event’s academic program will include a diverse range of topics from industrial maintenance, recycling, packaging, renewable energy, energy efficiency, metalwork, and mechanics, to chemical, electronic and automated projects, as well as the world of fashion, furniture and design.

Meanwhile, several business projects emerging from the country’s Portfolio of Foreign Investment Opportunities, 2015 edition, are also set to be finalized during

CubaIndustria 2016. For example, contracts related to the creation of plants designed to pack metal and glass products in the Mariel Special Development Zone, and for the manufacture of flexible containers, based in another province.

According to the event organizers, also being considered in the context of foreign investment projects are comprehensive waste management methods using biogas and recycling initiatives.
Identified as an underdeveloped sector, the upcoming convention will highlight the importance of ammonia, urea, liquid gas and PVC production in Cienfuegos, the renovation of fertilizer plants in Matanzas and investments in projects to manufacture new tires and retread existing ones.

With an expected 2,000 participants scheduled to attend, the CubaIndustria event will highlight the need to produce more value-added construction materials, while products to renovate homes and tourist facilities will also be presented.

Finally, attendees will be able to review opportunities linked to light and heavy industries, reflecting the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution, which from an economic stand point prioritize investments in technology, as this will contribute to lowering costs and the replacement of imports with domestic products.