State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, will lead a delegation to Cuba next week on a six-day trip in an effort to increase trade to the island nation.

Franks, who is chairman of the House International Trade & Commerce Committee, said there will be about 30 people on the trip, of which about a dozen will be state legislators.

Franks emphasized that no tax dollars will be used for the trip. Delegation members will pay their own way.

Three years after former Gov. George Ryan’s trip to Cuba in 1999, sales to Cuba peaked at $650 million annually. It since has shrunk to less than $70 million a year.

“We haven’t nurtured those relationships,” Franks said. “I’d like to go down and re-establish those ties.”

Illinois businesses sold agricultural products such as tractors to Cuba. Franks said the delegation will find out what Cuba buys, what else they need, and see what Illinois companies can do to fill those needs.

“We need to do what we can to put people to work,” Franks said.

Delegation members will meet with Cuban officials and hope to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, Franks said.



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