Charlotte City Council approves more than $1 million in incentive money for Chiquita

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The Charlotte City Council approved more than $1 million in incentive money for Chiquita Monday night, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in moving expenses.

The council's discussion was interrupted at times by the shouts of protesters in the audience.

Demonstrators and some council members say the move could set a dangerous precedent.

"It's very disappointing," protester Christian Hine said.

Hine said he had hoped more council members would vote against the Chiquita incentives package.

He and other protesters spoke in front of the council and held up signs.

"As cities continue to fight with each other over incentives, the companies requesting them will only ask for more and more," he said.

In return for city, county and state money, Chiquita has promised to bring 417 jobs to Charlotte.

City manager Curt Walton said Monday night that 300 Chiquita jobs will be filled locally, which is 100 more than city officials had said previously.

The council also added a request -- not a requirement -- that Chiquita conduct a job fair in Charlotte.

But some protesters said taxpayer money should go toward improving the business climate for all businesses.

Councilmember Warren Cooksey, who voted against the incentives package, pointed out it was a slippery slope.

"Should staff and future companies consider this vote a change in policy going forward, where any company asking the city for incentives should also ask for up-front money to help for their relocation?" he said.

Mayor Anthony Foxx said it was a fair question and one that the city's Economic Development Committee will address.

City officials also pointed to what they call "clawbacks," meaning Chiquita will be required to repay some or all of the money if it falls shorts of its economic promises.

Mayor Pro-Tem Patrick Cannon cited that as council voted its approval 9-2.

"I think we have the appropriate clawback provisions in place," Cannon said. "I think we have a reputable company that will come in and do a very good job. It will create opportunities for folks who are seeking them."