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Bill Carlson Unfolds Opportunities with Cuba

By: Ashleigh White, USF PRSSA, KnoBull Firm Director 2017  

On April 20, PRSA Tampa Bay members and guests gathered at BRIO Tuscan Grille to hear insights from Bill Carlson on how an open Cuba could impact the Tampa Bay region, and how Florida’s dynamic history with Cuba has molded Tampa into the city it is today. Bill Carlson, president of Tucker/Hall, is a Tampa native who works to forge relationships between companies and their audiences, as well as government agencies and their constituents.

 Carlson kicked the discussion off by first explaining the rich history between Florida and Cuba. He reinforced how Cuba’s War of Independence was crucial in shaping relations with Florida for years to come. Carlson also touched on how he believes Tampa should continue to foster this connection as a leading “global city or global community.”

He noted that “the Cuban government is very excited to work with the United States,” and expressed that “Tampa needs to engage in this opportunity.”

“Billions of dollars are going and will go into Cuba,” Carlson said. “...and not only into the market.”

Carlson referenced that while Tampa and Miami are equidistant to Cuba, both in terms of physical distance and transit time, much still needs to change in the political landscape of Tampa for the Bay Area to reap the potential benefits. For example, American Airlines first approached Tampa to launch a flight to Cuba when President Obama loosened travel restrictions, but ultimately inked a deal with Miami International Airport. Carlson feels that this opportunity could have had broad positive effects for both Tampa and Cuba’s economies.

When attendees questioned what the main arguments were behind the opposition to an open Cuba, Carlson explained that human rights violations are the main source of discontent for political leaders, among other factors.

Carlson shared that in his view, engagement of the Cuban people is the best solution to building US relations with Cuba, noting that “almost every large PR company has opened an agency in Cuba.”

It has been long thought that engagement with the Cuban market could open the door to new opportunities, here, in Tampa – and Carlson is encouraging area communicators to turn that opportunity into action. If you are interested in learning more about Cuba, you could visit the Jose Marti trail in Ybor City to immerse yourself in the history that Tampa has shared, and continues to share, with Cuba. Or, the opportunity is now available for U.S. citizens to plan a trip to Cuba and see it for themselves. Tampa is gradually adding cruise liners with itineraries to this destination, which might make for a perfect occasion.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Carlson said. “Don’t miss it.”

 

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