Miss Chiquita, the iconic symbol of bananas and pineapples, is packing her bags and leaving Cincinnati soon. Chiquita Brands International, Inc. announced the relocation of its headquarters to a new location in Charlotte, North Carolina last week.
Charlotte officials, including Mayor Anthony Foxx and Governor Bev Purdue, celebrated the move in a recent press conference.
“We welcome Chiquita and its global headquarters to Charlotte,” Mayor Foxx said in a Chiquita press release.
“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,” he added.
Chiquita was offered a rumored $22 million in incentives to relocate to the Tar Heel State. That estimate included city, county, and state perks.
“Charlotte and the region, as well as the state, have developed a strong relationship,” said Gov. Bev Perdue. “We’ve worked together, we come together and meet the incentive demands, and we prove that we’ve got the workforce and the quality of life that the company needs.”
Charlotte is a city that has received lots of praise in the past year. Most notably, the city rose to national political prominence when the Democratic National Committee selected it as the location for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Mayor Foxx, who was just re-elected to a four-year term, has been busy with regional leaders and committees to ensure the convention has a smooth arrival in early September.
Chiquita’s move to the Southeast is not simply about better weather in the North Carolina. Other economic factors in Cincinnati played into the company’s decision. Delta Airlines has greatly scaled back its flights in and out of Cincinnati, as it was once a major hub for the company. Travel to international locations and the West Coast became harder without access to direct flights. Charlotte, however, is the busiest hub for U.S. Airways, making it a prime location for a major operation like Chiquita.
Politically, it sets up a pre-Presidential battleground state match-up between two states: one “right-to-work” state in the South that’s not as friendly to unions and the other a part of the Midwest “Rust Belt” that just fought off an anti-union referendum. Picking Charlotte as the location for the DNC was all by political design, with the Obama re-election team figuring it could get a two-for-one in the a Southern purple state.
Officials in Cincinnati acknowledged the loss of the major employer, but continued to tout their area as one that is still quite business-friendly.
“The city of Cincinnati has been aggressively working to grow our economy and bring new jobs to Cincinnati. During my time as Mayor, we have had tremendous success in attracting and retaining companies and adding new jobs,” Mayor Mark Mallory of Cincinnati said in a statement.
“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,” Mallory added.
In this economic climate, every job counts. So losing a company like Chiquita had to hurt for officials in Cincinnati. In this case, with two African American mayors vying for bragging rights, one had to win and the other came up short.
However, any lateral move of employees, like in Chiquita’s case, does little to serve the national unemployment rate. Instead of creating jobs, the move simply shifts them from one region to another. Observers, specifically opposed to government incentive spending, will be watching the company closely to see if new positions are created with the perks they received. The greater need is for jobs to be created to put a lasting dent in unemployment figures. But, alas, such is the marketplace.
Chiquita’s move to Charlotte will be complete in late 2012, according to the company’s chairman and CEO Fernando Aguirre.