A North Carolina economic development panel has approved an incentives deal worth more than $22 million to bring the global headquarters of banana giant Chiquita Brands International from Cincinnati to Charlotte.
The state Economic Investment Committee voted Tuesday to approve the deal, which includes more than $20 million in state incentives and more than $2 million from local government to bring at least 375 high-paying jobs to North Carolina by 2014.
The company didn't immediately respond to messages left seeking comment Tuesday, but state Commerce Department spokesman Tim Crowley said the incentives deal basically formalizes the plan.
"This isn't exploring," he said. "Essentially, it's a done deal."
A formal announcement of the deal was expected to be made by officials including Gov. Beverly Perdue later Tuesday in Charlotte.
Members of the committee said the move of Chiquita's headquarters, along with research and development laboratories, will eventually bring a total of about 417 jobs to the area. The jobs are supposed to pay an average of about $107,000.
Committee members said the incentives were needed to give Charlotte an edge over Ohio, Florida and Louisiana. Another key factor in the company's decision was the greater access to and assortment of foreign flights in and out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Chiquita has been based in Cincinnati since 1987, when it moved from New York. In 2005, the company considered moving its headquarters, but decided then to remain in Ohio.
Charlotte was publicly discussed earlier this year as a possible new home for Chiquita's headquarters by the company, which has a lease extension running through 2012 on its namesake headquarters building in downtown Cincinnati.
With operations across the globe, Chiquita has more than 21,000 employees worldwide.
By Emery P. Dalesio
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