Chiquita leaving Charlotte this year, costing city hundreds of jobs

Chiquita Brands International said it plans to vacate Charlotte by the end of the year as it relocates its headquarters, costing the city hundreds of well-paying jobs.

The timeline is slightly faster than Chiquita said last month when it first revealed its plans to move the headquarters from Charlotte over 12 to 18 months. The layoff notice filed with the N.C. Department of Commerce also reveals that several dozen employees have already been let go: While Chiquita had employed more than 300 workers uptown, the company says 262 employees remain.

“We expect that the job eliminations resulting from the closure will begin on or about April 17,” the company wrote. The job cuts will continue for at least two more rounds in June and October, with all employees gone by the end of the year.

Chiquita is located in the NASCAR Plaza office tower at Stonewall and South Caldwell streets, where its iconic blue-and-yellow logo tops the building.

The company decided to move to Charlotte in 2011, lured by the promise of $22 million worth of state and local incentives, to be paid out over a decade. But the company struggled to turn around faltering results and became a takeover target. Late last year, two Brazilian companies won their bid to acquire the banana company for $631 million, and Chiquita became a private subsidiary.

The new Brazilian owners said they will move the headquarters jobs closer to existing facilities to improve efficiency.

The company said it will refund all the incentives money it has received so far. Chiquita has agreed to repay Charlotte and Mecklenburg County $1 million worth of incentives payments it received, and it will return $1.5 million to the state.

Chiquita leases six floors, or about 130,000 square feet, of the NASCAR Plaza building. That’s about a quarter of the building. Parkway Properties, the building’s owner, has said the NASCAR tower is 97 percent leased, and Chiquita’s lease runs through 2025.