Will Charlotte fight Chiquita incentives? - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Will Charlotte fight Chiquita incentives?


Chiquita is moving its global headquarters from Charlotte to Dublin, and that's in direct conflict with the deal that brought the company to the Queen City.

According to documents obtained by the Charlotte Business Journal, Chiquita agreed to keep its global headquarters here.

But will local officials enforce that headquarters requirement?

City and county officials have not said yet whether they'll go after the more than $1 million they've already paid Chiquita, or if they'll try to stop payment on the future grants slated for the company, based on the headquarters part of the agreement.

In fact, local leaders have been heralding the merger, and that is confusing some taxpayers.

Monday, Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon issued a statement congratulating Chiquita on its merger, saying he's "proud that Charlotte will be a key base of operations..." The statement did not mention the loss of the city's role as headquarters.

And Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan called the merger good news given Chiquita's financial troubles.

"I think they've secured their future," he says, "and made themselves more competitive."

But taxpayers like Helen Katsanos want to know why local leaders aren't more upset with the company.

"The big question is what's really going on and why aren't they going after them to get their money back," Katsanos says. "Because if I broke a contract, I'm sure whoever I broke it with is going to get their money back."

Former city councilman Edwin Peacock was one of three members who voted against the incentive package for Chiquita.

"I believed Chiquita didn't need the money they were already going to come to Charlotte," he says.

Now, he thinks the city should get tough with the clawback measures its deal with Chiquita affords. But he says he understands why local leaders may be hesitant.

"The last thing you want to do is bite the hand that is trying to feed you with new jobs," Peacock says.

So far, Chiquita has met its job creation requirements.  Three hundred currently work there; the company must hire about 100 more. While mergers often include layoffs, Chiquita has not said that will happen here.

Dave Nichols says when it comes to his tax money he doesn't care what Chiquita calls its operation. The real reason for incentives is for job creation," he says, adding that the label "headquarters" doesn't mean much to him. "I think it's more about the actual jobs."

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