Rowan Chamber returns from trip to Cuba

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce recently returned from a seven day trip to Cuba.

The participants who went from Rowan County were: Chamber President Elaine Spalding and her husband, Keyth Kahrs; Kimerly and Jeffery Fahs; Jerry and Maxine McDaniel; and Elaine Howle.

There were a total of 30 participants on the trip from the Rowan Chamber, Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber. The U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was in Cuba at the time as the group and he is from Des Moines, Iowa.

Several of the business leaders from Des Moines know Sec. Vilsack and reached out to him during the trip.

The majority of the time was spent in Havana with tours of historic buildings, the Cuban Literacy Museum, cigar factories, Plaza of the Revolution, arts and crafts markets and much more. Day trips to Ernest Hemingway’s farm and the agricultural area of Vinales Valley were also a highlight. Participants rode in 1950s-era cars and ate at several local paladars — locally owned restaurants in people’s homes.

“Cuba is a fascinating country with wonderful people,” said Elaine Spalding, Chamber president. “Our tour guides were very knowledgeable and shared a great deal with us about the customs and culture. Even though Cuba is only a 45-minute plane ride from Miami, Florida, it feels like you stepped back in time to the 1950s.”

The Rowan Chamber participants were among the first Americans to legally travel to Cuba. Diplomatic relations have greatly improved between Cuba and the U.S. However, you still need to be part of an approved group tour to travel from the U.S. to Cuba.

The participants gained a new perspective on Cuba’s incredible history, cuisine, business challenges and economic development opportunities. The Rowan Chamber’s Governmental Affairs International Sub-committee, chaired by Frank Goodnight (Diversified Graphics, Inc.) coordinated the trip.

They are considering a Cuba trip with fewer days or another destination next year. If you are interested, contact the Rowan Chamber at 704-633-4221, or