This was no doubt a surprising week to many in Charlotte when one of our newest and most well known corporate headquarters announced big changes at the top along with company cuts. Chiquita's Fernando Aguirre is stepping down as CEO. The announcement came at the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange after another rough quarter for the company's stockholders. Read the Chiquita news release here. Read Aguirre's letter to Bob Morgan here.
Reaction from the Charlotte business community was overall supportive. Though the company has only been a corporate citizen for several months, they've already made significant contributions. Still, some have concerns that state and local incentives requirements won't be met.
In a statement released to the media, chamber president Bob Morgan said: “Our incentives are performance based. If the jobs promised do not come to Charlotte, the incentives do not get paid. Downsizings are always painful yet sometimes necessary. It is in Charlotte’s best interest for Chiquita to do what it needs to do to return to profitability. Charlotte owes a debt of gratitude to Fernando Aguirre. He added Chiquita to our skyline and he has made many other positive civic contributions in a short period of time.”
And according to Aguirre, Chiquita is here to stay. In a letter he sent to Mayor Foxx he wrote: "I assure you and our fellow Charlotteans that we remain fully committed to Charlotte and that restructuring will have very minimal impact on our employees here. In fact, we have already met our year-one hiring targets and are ahead of schedule in meeting year-two requirements as outlined in the economic incentives agreement. During the past six months we have hired 158 employees for positions in Charlotte, 102 employees have already relocated to the area, and 55 more will move by the end of September. The great majority of positions that will be affected by the restructuring are in operations outside of North Carolina.
Additionally, we will have invested more than $13 million in facility improvements to our headquarters build by the end of September, and we have hired dozens of local contractors to assist with our transition here. Furthermore, the Chiquita Classic golf tournament is epxected to bring millions of dollars of positive economic impact to the region, and we are assisting more than 60 charities with our charitable tickets program."