Commissioners for the Mississippi State Port Authority on Tuesday finalized a 40-year lease agreement with Chiquita Brands International to restore operations at the Port of Gulfport.
“We never lost sight of a possible return by Chiquita, and it is with great excitement to announce their return to Gulfport,” Port Authority executive director and CEO Jonathon Daniels said.
Chiquita, a Fortune 500 company, distributes and markets bananas and pineapples. The company expects to return to Gulfport by August. The new lease agreement extends to 2056.
“We believe that Gulfport is optimally situated to service our customers most efficiently with both north and southbound vessel services,” Chiquita President and CEO Andrew Biles said.
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The deal with the port did not include any state incentives, according to the Mississippi Development Authority.
“The state of Mississippi provided no financial incentive for Chiquita to return, and that speaks for itself. Our new facilities and the efficiency of the ILA Local 1303 ultimately made the business case for the Port of Gulfport,” Daniels said.
“The return of Chiquita is a testament to the improvements made through the Port of Gulfport Restoration Program, to the extraordinary teamwork exhibited daily by the leadership at the port and also to the outstanding workforce in Mississippi,” MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough Jr. said.
Under the agreement, Chiquita will return to its previous location in the North Harbor and will expand operations into Terminal One. The company expects to double the terminal space, occupying a new maintenance and repair building. The company also will occupy 110,000 square feet of warehouse space in the West Terminal Transit Shed, and the port will construct 20,000 square feet of temperature-controlled space.
The state of Mississippi provided no financial incentive for Chiquita to return, and that speaks for itself.
The company is expected to directly employ 10 management and operations personnel. The company’s return will have the most impact on longshoremen with the ILA Local 1303.
Chiquita re-located to Gulfport in the mid-1970s and left in May 2014 for the Port of Orleans.
The Port of Orleans had agreed to invest $2.2 million in improvements at a port-owned distribution and ripening facility leased to Chiquita, as well as fund $2 million in refrigerated-container electrical infrastructure improvements and rehabilitate a container freight warehouse.
The return to Gulfport is being lauded in Jackson.
“Chiquita’s return demonstrates the ‘Port of the Future,’ or the Port of Gulfport, is the right fit for companies with international shipping needs,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “It also reinforces the fact Mississippi has a business environment that helps companies maintain their competitive edge in today’s demanding economy.”