Cover Story: Making appeals for Chiquita

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - There are new developments in Charlotte's effort to land Chiquita Bananas and hundreds of new high paying jobs.

Charlotte is stepping up its push to become the new headquarters for Chiquita from incentives to Twitter and now merchandising.  It's safe to say Charlotte is going bananas for the company.

Never before have we seen so much "outside" help to land a company's headquarters in Charlotte.

These negotiations are usually kept top secret. The news on this one got out however and button-up Charlotte is having a little fun with it.

"It's not as hard as it looks..."

Judy Hill is helping me put on a bow tie. What do bow ties have to do with a multi-billion dollar business and bananas? Turns out more than you think!

"I'm a Chiquita banana and I'd like to say..."

Chiquita hinted around months ago that it might be looking to move.  Its lease on its downtown Cincinnati headquarters runs out next year.

News got out over a possible move to Charlotte.

Both cities (each call themselves the "Queen City") engaged in a friendly food fight on Twitter, the social media website.

This one says "Hi Charlotte. You're so nice don't take Chiquita away."

The CEO even paying attention to the Twitter back and forth - writing in one post:  "Pleasantly surprised.. positive for both cities."

He ends with "humbling and humanizing for CEO. Thanks."

In case you hadn't guessed Chiquita's Chairman and CEO Fernando Aguirre isn't your typical CEO.

Besides tweeting he appeared last year on the CBS-TV reality show "Undercover Boss."

And turns out he also is a fan of bow ties, which is where Judy Hill comes in.

"We sat down and we decided to come up with a bow tie just to encourage him to come to Charlotte," she said.

Her company "High Cotton Ties" makes hand made bow ties in North Carolina.

She tweeted to Aguirre a picture of the specially-made tie (in Chiquita colors yellow and blue) that she made.  And sent it to him.

She also made extra ties.

Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan got hold of two and they took pictures of local VIPs (people like City Manager Curt Walton and Airport Director Jerry Orr) wearing the "Chiquita" tie, and then sent the picture via Twitter hashtag #BananasForCLT.

Says Morgan, "It's pretty remarkable frankly his commitment to social media as a way for he and the company to connect with customers and folks out in the world at large. That's a very unique circumstance."

"The idea was because he loved bow ties so much," says Hill, "and we're a Southern, North Carolina company that we would just show him some love and it really did generate more excitement that we realized."

Luring the top banana from Cincinnati and the 400 high-paying jobs with him would be a major coup for Charlotte.

What could tip the scales in our favor?  Delta Air Lines has slashed service in Cincinnati and the company is looking for a city where it can fly directly to its operations around the world.

"We're talking about an iconic brand that is known across the globe and a company whose reach includes the globe," said Morgan.

Judy Hill says she hasn't heard from Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre about whether he's received the tie or not.  So far he hasn't responded on Twitter.

He clearly is enjoying all the healthy competition.  Leading some to say, maybe they'll put jobs in both places and it'll be a split decision.

One city is now out of the hunt.  Atlanta is reportedly out of the competition.

Chiquita could make its decision any day now.

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