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Chiquita Leaving Miss.: More Jobs On the Way With a New Tenant

GULFPORT, Miss.–Chiquita is leaving Mississippi and the Port of Gulfport after a 40-year stay. Now a new tenant is set to be announced Monday, which Port Dir. Jonathan Daniels told media Wednesday, will bring in more jobs than will be lost with the Chiquita move.

And exactly how many jobs will be affected depends on who you ask.

According to the local union, it’s 100 workers and about 80 longshoremen.

If you ask the governor’s office and the Miss. Development authority, the number of jobs actually being lost is far fewer.

“The Port will lose 58 jobs- 20 full time Chiquita jobs and 38 [related] jobs which is based on 79,000 hours,” said Jeff Rent, spokesman for the Miss. Development Authority.

But, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and the crew in that state seem to believe that anywhere between 270 and 350 jobs will be created when Chiquita makes the big switch.

“This is a huge, important, historic win for New Orleans and the State of Louisiana,” he said at a press conference Wednesday.

What made Chiquita move back to New Orleans after four decades in Mississippi- a $5 million incentive plan by Louisiana.

“We’re certainly sad to see them leaving. We wish them well in their endeavors,” said Daniels. He said Chiquita’s move is no reflection on the Port of Gulfport, which has been working to accommodate the company by helping design a new infrastructure to better suit their import needs.

“Over the last 90 days the Port of Gulfport has gone to great lengths to determine whether Chiquita planned to accept the option to extend its lease. Numerous contacts by port and state officials have been made with company executives. What we were consistently told is that Chiquita was undertaking a due diligence process to determine their business strategy for the future. We were never given the opportunity to negotiate a new lease. At the same time we were preparing to spend $29 million on a new Chiquita terminal that they helped design.”

The lease will be over July 15 and business between Chiquita and the State of Mississippi is set to conclude then.

Here are statements about the move:

From Gov. Bryant:

“I have been in contact with company officials and understand that this is a business decision and a consolidation in response to a change in the dynamics of their shipping operations. The company is changing its delivery model, and its shipping partner chose New Orleans. The company was financially incentivized by the state of Louisiana, which is not unusual. We wish them all the best with their decision. From the outset of my administration, I have employed a sense of urgency regarding the Port restoration and expansion and, despite many federal obstacles, we are making substantial progress toward diversifying Port tenants and increasing throughput. We will work hard to replace the jobs by continuing to seek more tenants for the Port. In fact, I understand that the Port’s board will meet on Monday to approve a new lease.”

From MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen:

“We sincerely thank Chiquita for their many years of partnership at the Port. Current business development prospects are aimed at diversifying the cargo mix, bringing higher levels of throughput, jobs and revenues to the port. We applaud Jonathan Daniels for his aggressive recruitment efforts, and we have confidence that we will be celebrating new job creation announcements soon.”

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