Chiquita to consolidate corporate headquarters in Charlotte

Move to be complete by end of 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Chiquita Brands International, Inc. announced Tuesday afternoon that the Cincinnati-based company is moving its corporate headquarters to Charlotte, N.C. after a $22 million incentives deal was approved.

The Economic Investment Committee in North Carolina voted Tuesday to approve the incentives deal to move the global headquarters from Cincinnati. The deal includes more than $20 million in state incentives and more than $2 million from local government.

The panel says the move of Chiquita's headquarters, along with research and development laboratories, means Cincinnati will lose about 375 jobs by 2014. The jobs moving to Charlotte are supposed to pay an average of about $107,000, according to the Associated Press.

The company will also consolidate other corporate functions in Charlotte by bringing more than 100 additional positions currently spread across the U.S. The move is expected to be complete by the end of 2012.

"After an extensive review of our capabilities and needs, we are confident that Charlotte is the optimal location for our business and that our decision to relocate is in the long-term best interest of our company, customers, employees and shareholders," said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer. "Charlotte provided the most compelling economic opportunity to lower our long-term operating costs and the region is an attractive community for our employees. Importantly, the Charlotte airport provides improved access to international markets, customers and Chiquita operations around the world."

Committee members say the incentives were needed to give Charlotte an edge over Ohio, Florida and Louisiana. 

"The City of Cincinnati has been aggressively working to grow our economy and bring new jobs to Cincinnati," said Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. "During my time as Mayor, we have had tremendous success in attracting and retaining companies and adding new jobs. While Chiquita has decided to leave our community, Cincinnati's business community continues to remain strong and growing, and we have many more wins in our future because Cincinnati is a great place to do business."

In September, Cincinnati offered the company city and state tax incentives to add 90 jobs over three years. 

Several city council members told 9 News they were not surprised by Chiquita's decision to move. Councilman Cecil Thomas said the city and the state were aggressive in trying to get them to stay.

"We collaborated with the state and put an offer on the table. However its all about business and that bottom line number," said Thomas. "You can't expect a company to stay in a location if they can't meet the bottom line number."

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said she expected Chiquita to move.

"Chiquita has its own business needs. One, its oriented towards Latin America. It needs direct flights to Latin America and the city of Charlotte as well as the state put together very aggressive packages. At a certain point, you have to do a cost benefit analysis," said Qualls. "If the cost outweighs the benefits, there's a limit to what you are willing to do."

"The City offered a competitive and fair package, but in the end, Chiquita made a decision based on a number of factors. This is how economic development works," said Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney. "This does not change the fact that Cincinnati is a great place to do business. This point is made over and over by recent headquarter announcements by Omnicare (500 jobs) and First Financial (150 jobs) as well as the Horseshoe Casino's decision to create 1200 permanent jobs, and businesses moving to The Banks. Additionally, P&G has moved 650 jobs into the city, Kroger is adding jobs and dunhumby USA is adding nearly a dozen jobs monthly. Cincinnati continues to be a very competitive market. We worked in partnership with the Ohio Department of Development, the Governor's office, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and Hamilton County on Chiquita and will continue to do so for future economic development wins."

The move would also have a significant impact on other professional services in the Tri-State -- design services, marketing services, legal services and accounting services.

"Chiquita looked across America for a place to locate its global headquarters and they chose Charlotte, North Carolina," said North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue in a news release. "Once again this state's tremendous workforce, top business climate and accessible infrastructure attracted an internationally competitive company."

"We welcome Chiquita and its global headquarters to Charlotte," said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. "Their move, which follows an all-hands-on-deck recruiting effort, serves to further diversify Charlotte's economy and bring a significant number of high quality jobs. Chiquita has a legendary track record of corporate citizenship, and, in addition to its economic impact, we can also look forward to the many ways in which its presence will enhance our quality of life."

Carl

Lindner, former owner, moved Chiquita to Cincinnati from Manhattan in 1987.

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