Dozens of Chiquita employees, local government officials and Miss Chiquita Banana (complete with fruit hat) gathered Wednesday to watch the unveiling of a new Chiquita logo atop the NASCAR Plaza office tower.
“Charlotteans have shown us amazing Southern hospitality,” said Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre. “It’s great, exciting, one of those days we’ve worked for...This is very special.”
The company will have largely completed its move by September. Chiquita will occupy six floors of the building on South Caldwell Street, next to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Aguirre said about 160 employees and their families are moving to Charlotte from Cincinnati, and the company has hired about 100 workers locally. By the end of the year, Chiquita expects to have hired roughly 200 local employees, Aguirre said, bringing its total headcount in Charlotte to around 360.
Chiquita announced it was relocating to Charlotte last year, lured by more than $24 million in state and local incentives and the promise of easier air travel from busy Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
The company’s lease of about 137,000 square feet at the NASCAR Plaza is also a coup for the building, which struggled to attract tenants when it opened.
Trinity partner David Allen took a moment to fire back at what he called “negative press” surrounding the building’s adjoining NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has been criticized for not meeting attendance projections since it opened.
“The Hall of Fame may or may not be meeting projections,” he told the crowd, but went on to say it was still boosting the community by drawing visitors who spend money in Charlotte. “That impact may not show up in the attendance figures, but its impact is felt in the community.”
Aguirre then led the group in a countdown as two workers, dangling from ropes, detached a cover in front of the blue and yellow logo. “Five, four, three, two, one...push!” he yelled, and the covering fluttered away as the crowd cheered.