Chiquita leaving Cincinnati?

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Officials in North Carolina's largest city are offering millions of dollars if banana giant Chiquita Brands International relocates its headquarters from Ohio.

Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have each decided to offer $1 million in incentives, with the state adding another $2 million.

Chiquita also considered moving its headquarters from Cincinnati in 2005, but stayed in Ohio.

"Keeping them in the Midwest when they're primarily dealing with banana imports, that's a challenge," Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz admitted. "So it has to be worth their while."

On the heals of Delta's announcement of even more flight reductions nationwide, Bortz says it is critical to increase flights through CVG to offer companies like Chiquita the travel options they need to stay competitive.

"This is the first really clear example of the impact of those Delta reductions on our business environment," Bortz said.

"We must keep Chiquita here," emphasized Job Creation Committee chairman Charlie Winburn.

He says Chiquita leaving the Queen City is simply not an option.

"No, it's not an option because Chiquita plays a great role in expanding our tax base, they're a good corporate citizen and it's the right thing to do, [to] retain jobs," he said.

"If we cant provide the incentives that they need what incentive is there, really, for them to stay?" Bortz questioned, emphasizing the need for more flights he believes could come to CVG in the next one to two years.

He says there is only so much the city and state can do to offer incentives to balance out the limitations the company is facing in terms of air travel.

"Every government has a limited checkbook at this point," Bortz said.

Regarding governor Kasich's call to make Ohio a "cool" place to be, Bortz says the latest news concerning Chiquita should not be concerning to Ohioans. He says it does not mean the state is losing its attractiveness in the business world.

"Our goal is: 'Chiquita, you stay here. Charlotte, keep doing the wonderful things that you're doing'," Windburn said.

"The state of Ohio has been a significant center for business both nationally and internationally so I think we've got a pretty good cool factor going on too," Bortz said. "If we're successful in this particular competition it will be because of that. So this could be an underlining of our success as opposed to another one of our failures."

Chiquita spokesman Ed Loyd says the company is evaluating sites and is in talks with officials in Cincinnati, Charlotte, and other locations.

A statement was released from Ed Loyd about the potential move:

We have been in a process of evaluating where to have our long term headquarters for some time. Earlier this year, we extended our lease in Cincinnati through 2012 to give us more flexibility through this process. We are discussing options with officials in Cincinnati and Ohio, as well as other locations, including Charlotte. We have not made any decision at this point but are focused on determining the best possible long-term location that best positions our business and employees for growth.‬ ‪ ‬

Chiquita Brands International, Inc. is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of New Jersey, headquartered at 250 East Fifth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 USA.

The newspaper reports the average salary of the roughly 400 headquarters jobs would be more than $100,000.

Copyright 2011 FOX19. All Rights Reserved. The Associate Press Contributed to this report.