Return of Chiquita a big boost for New Orleans, locals say

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 10:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 14 at 10:39 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- After a four-decade hiatus, Chiquita is returning its shipping operations to the Port of New Orleans.

From the port to the French Market, Chiquita brands, known then as United Brands, left its mark on New Orleans.

The company's shipping operations were deeply rooted here for seven decades until a move to Gulfport, Miss. in the 1970s.

"My dad was a banana worker with the port. I still wear his badge to this day, banana workers for New Orleans,” said ILA Local 3000 President Kenneth Crier.

After spending four decades away, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Wednesday afternoon a reunion between Chiquita and the Crescent City.

"This is a huge, important, historic win for New Orleans and Louisiana,” Jindal said.

State officials say the move will mean a 15 percent increase in port container volume and 270 to 350 new jobs.

With Chiquita coming here to the Port of New Orleans, the Governor's Office says it expects to see a $373 million to $485 million economic output over the next 10 years.

Crier is the union president of ILA Local 3000. He confirms three local unions will benefit from the new jobs.

"We're rapidly growing here in the port and the city,” he said. “So a lot of businesses are coming back here. We're glad to have them and we're going to try and find more businesses that are willing to come back home to New Orleans.”

Liz Williams is the director of the SOFAB Institute, which is dedicated to the culinary history of the south.

“We had coffee before anyone else. We had all these wonderful foods, bananas, pineapples,” she said. “That's how we got things like banana foster and banana liquor.”

She said Chiquita left a historic footprint in New Orleans that's still felt generations later.

"I know it was really an important economic engine. It was a good food harbinger and it was one thing that brought us a lot of finesse to the cuisines,” she said.

The economic engine is making a welcome return after a long hiatus away.

The Port of New Orleans plans to make $4.2 million in improvements to accommodate Chiquita brands.

Company shipments in New Orleans are expected to start early next year.

 

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