GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - New cranes and a willing workforce helped lure Chiquita back to the Port of Gulfport after spending the past two years in New Orleans.
Although the company maintained a presence in the city, the departure left a significant void at the Port. After new owners took over, Port Director Jonathan Daniels seized the opportunity to convince the company that Gulfport is where they belonged.
"They were looking at what we had to offer. They were talking to us about the cranes, they were talking to us about the facility itself, and very quickly came to the decision that Gulfport was going to be the long term option for them and they would be departing New Orleans," said Daniels.
Not only is Chiquita signing a 40 year lease, the company is also increasing its footprint.
"They're going from approximately 20 acres to nearly 32 acres. A significant increase in the amount of reefer plugs, the amount of product. But they're also talking about going to a big of a grounded operation as well," added Daniels.
Perhaps the biggest benefit from Chiquita's return is jobs; which will put more people to work.
"It means everything for the longshoremen that actually lost their jobs when Chiquita departed two years ago. It means they're going to get their jobs back," said Darius Johnson, president of ILA Local #1303. "Before their departure, they represented about 80-85,000 man hours out of 240,000 hours a year. So, they really represent a large portion for the longshoremen."
Daniels says new cranes helped lure the company back to Gulfport.
"And in fact, in the next two weeks, the cranes will work for the first time on a live vessel. And they'll have the opportunity to work about three or four times before the middle of August and before the arrival of Chiquita," said Daniels.
The State of Louisiana offered millions of dollars in financial incentives to lure Chiquita to New Orleans two years ago. However, Mississippi did not provide any financial incentives to lure Chiquita back to Gulfport.