GLOBAL ECONOMY

Unilever, huge consumer product giant, breaks ground in Cuba with factory

Unilever CEO Paul Polman, right, and Cuba's Minister of Industries Salvador Pardo, pose for photos after laying a cornerstone for a new business center, in Mariel, Cuba, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. The Dutch consumer product giant has become one of the largest foreign companies to move into a special economic development zone at the Cuban port of Mariel that is meant to jumpstart outside investment on the island. (Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate via AP)

Unilever CEO Paul Polman, right, and Cuba's Minister of Industries Salvador Pardo, pose for photos after laying a cornerstone for a new business center, in Mariel, Cuba, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. The Dutch consumer product giant has become one of the largest foreign companies to move into a special economic development zone at the Cuban port of Mariel that is meant to jumpstart outside investment on the island. (Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate via AP)

Dutch consumer product giant Unilever has become one of the largest foreign companies to move into a special economic development zone at the Cuban port of Mariel that is meant to jumpstart outside investment on the island.

Unilever broke ground Friday on a $35 million joint venture with the Cuban government to produce personal care products.

Unilever will hold a 60 percent stake in the venture, which will produce shampoo, soaps and other products for local and international distribution. The factory is expected to generate 300 local jobs and will be managed by Unilever officials.

Only seven other foreign firms have moved to open operations in the special economic zone since it was inaugurated in 2014. Many have yet to break ground or remain in the early stages. Cuba says it is hopeful of accelerating the pace of foreign investment in the country, a pace lagging at less than half the annual goal of more than $2 billion a year.

Eleven more companies have been approved to open operations at the free trade zone, Cuban officials say.

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