After two years in New Orleans, Chiquita is returning to the Port of Gulfport. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the news is being welcomed by port officials and workers.
Chiquita left for the Port of New Orleans in May 2014, lured by millions of dollars in incentives from the state of Louisiana. Gulfport port director Jonathan Daniels admits it was a blow, losing Chiquita, but he says they always kept the door open. Now, Chiquita’s coming back, even bigger, and Daniels says they’re not being offered incentives:
“We made a business case to them, and they’ve accepted that business case and feel that this is the best location, not only for their existing operation but for their opportunity to grow," Daniels says. "That's something they talked about to us - their ability to significantly increase the amount of containers, the amount of product they're moving through. And we're going to be the beneficiaries of that, not only for the Port Authority with the revenue, but I think more importantly because of the employment opportunities."
Daniels says the port could see almost a doubling of the revenue it received from Chiquita when it left. Chiquita had provided about 80,000 manhours of work a year for local longshoremen. The loss of those hours was difficult, says local union president Darius Johnson.
"What we did as a local is just bonded together, and we shared the work that we have," he says. "We toughed it out for two years, and then tenant, they're coming back. So we're just looking forward to moving forward, brighter days."
The company has signed a 40-year lease in Gulfport. Its first vessel is expected to arrive next month.