Chiquita Doesn't Split

March 22, 2006
Siemens stays put as well.

More than 600 U.S. jobs that could have gone elsewhere are going to remain in the greater Cincinnati area as a result of recent location decisions -- albeit for different strategic reasons -- by two global companies: Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Siemens AG.

Despite relocation bids from Atlanta and South Florida, Chiquita Brands, best known for bananas, is keeping its 100,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and more than 300 employees in Cincinnati.

Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita Brands' chairman and CEO, made the decision not to relocate so the food-products company could concentrate on its top three business priorities, explains Michael Mitchell, director of corporate communications. Chiquita Brands' business priorities are to digest some recent changes in European tariffs on bananas, to improve the company's profitability in North America and to continue the integration of last June's acquisition of Fresh Express, a producer and distributor of fresh salads, fruit and vegetables.

Mitchell declines to say whether any economic-development incentives were offered by any of the areas the company considered. He says simply, "The incentives were not a factor in the decision to stay."

Meanwhile, the existence of a skilled workforce was a major reason for Siemens Energy & Automation Inc., a unit of Germany-based Siemens AG, to remain in the Cincinnati area. Siemens is investing $30 million to renovate and expand its large-motor manufacturing at the historic Norwood Works and will create a "global motor" R&D center there. Work began in January and will be done in stages over three years, with just over two-thirds of the total investment going for new machinery, equipment and technology. Production will continue during the renovation and expansion.

Siemens confirms it is receiving some incentives from the state of Ohio to stay and expand, but declines to discuss the details. However, Aubert Martin, president and CEO of Siemens Energy & Automation, makes no secret that its skilled workforce was a deciding factor in staying. Siemens employs about 300 people at Norwood, where it makes large electric motors used in factory automation for customers in the three NAFTA countries, the United States, Canada and Mexico. For "these types of motors, you need a skilled and experienced workforce, otherwise you cannot keep the quality level that our customers are expecting," Martin says. The employees will receive additional training. "We will bring this workforce to the next level. It's a big part of the investment as well."

Chiquita Brands' and Siemens' decisions to remain in Cincinnati are "obviously good news" from his perspective, states Nick Vehr, vice president of the Cincinnati USA Regional Partnership, an economic-development agency. "Whenever great global brands decide to expand and stay in our region, we view it as a sign that this is a great place to do business. . . .

Because of our access, because of our diversified economy and our educational institutions, I think we're fairing very well in holding our own as a community that is being successful at retaining its manufacturing base."

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