Chiquita's future in Charlotte in doubt after merger

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - City, county and state leaders spent millions to bring Chiquita’s global headquarters to Charlotte.

Less than two years later, Chiquita plans to merge with an Irish company and pull executives and its headquarters out of uptown.

Chiquita moved to Charlotte in 2012 and promised to keep its headquarters in the city for at least 10 years and to hire more than 400 people.

On Monday, there was no clear answer from local leaders if this moves violates the $22 million incentive package from the city, county and state.

TIMELINE: Chiquita Brand

Either way, some are calling this a major blow to Charlotte as it tries to portray itself as a home for global commerce.

County Commissioner Pat Cotham said she understands it's part of business, but this won’t help Charlotte recruit others.

“This is a disappointment for the city to lose a headquarters,” Cotham said.

Charlotte has some major questions to answer: Does the deal require Chiquita to keep its headquarters in Charlotte or just an office in the city?

And with expected reductions in its current 310 employees, will it ever reach its goal of more than 400 hires in three years?

On Monday, Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon said he doesn’t believe the move violates the deal, but the staff will continue to track it as the merger progresses.

Former City Councilman Andy Dulin, who voted for the incentives, said he has no regrets.

“They've come up with their part of the bargain as far as hiring, money unfitting their space, which goes into the construction end of the community,” Dulin said.

County Commissioner Bill James voted against the incentives.

He emailed Channel 9 saying, "I have been opposed to economic development grants for a long time. The biggest screw up was giving them moving expenses up front."

While the politicians debate the deal, some taxpayers are trying to look on the bright side.
        
“If the jobs are staying here I think that’s what they were brought here for, not the prestige of being headquartered here,” said Charlotte resident Mark Vanzandt.

Shareholders on both sides and federal regulators still have to approve the deal, but they hope to have this done by the end of the year.


For all of our past coverage on Chiquita, visit our special section.