Fruit company Chiquita has announced it will close its Charlotte headquarters in the next 18 months. Chiquita employs more than 300 at that headquarters. The closure comes less than three years after state, city, and county officials lured the company from Cincinnati with a $22 million package of economic incentives in 2011. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James is a critic of those incentives. He says today’s news shows why they’re a bad strategy.
"What kind of loyalty do you get? I don't want to sound crass, but, no one falls in love with a hooker. And in essence Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte, they've been hooking themselves out to these companies," said James.
So far, the city and county have paid about $1 million. County manager Dena Diorio says Chiquita has agreed to return that money.
The company also received $5 million up front for relocation expenses —no word if that will come back, too. (see note below) Chiquita has not said where it will relocate to. The company, Charlotte mayor Dan Clodfelter, and the county manager have all declined further interviews.
Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio sent an email this morning to all county commissioners announcing the closure.
Correction: The final incentives agreement does not mention a $5 million upfront payment. While the payment was described as "upfront" money when the council initially approved the deal, the city says - and contracts with Chiquita show - any payment was going to be spread over three years and tied to the number of people employed. The city says this is the $1 million paid from city and county funds, and Chiquita has agreed to repay it.