GULF OF MEXICO (WLOX) - The Port of Gulfport is home to Chiquita bananas once again. A big celebration was held to welcome the fruit shipping giant back.
Governor Phil Bryant was pleased to see some of his effort to strengthen the port paying off. And now, he's looking even further into the future.
"This is a good start. We're not done by any means. We're going to expand this port, grow jobs, grow capacity, make it deeper, and keep the tenants that we have," said Governor Bryant.
The fruit shipping giant left the port in 2014 to move operations to New Orleans after decades in Gulfport. Back then, port director and CEO Jonathan Daniels said this shipping hub was a very different place.
"It's amazing what has occurred in the last two years and having Chiquita come back really just sums it up for us. They realized that Gulfport is the terminal and the port that they want to be at, not only now, but well into the future. They signed a 40 year agreement. That means that Chiquita's going to be here for the long haul," said Daniels.
Among the draws to come back was the installation of huge gantry cranes making shipping more efficient. Andrew Biles stepped into his role as CEO of Chiquita in 2015, after the decision was made to move to New Orleans. Biles played a big role in bringing it back.
"Gulfport has the right infrastructure for export and for import," said Biles.
But, according to Biles, another big influence on the decision was the customer base.
"Our retailers said we prefer Gulfport and our exporters said we prefer Gulfport from a logistics point of view," said Biles.
So, the decision was made, and another tenant has been added back to the port's roster. According to officials, Chiquita will bring about 50 new jobs to the port.