Friday, June 15, 2012

DNC 2012 Notebook: Adding a banana to the Uptown view

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 10:23 AM

As corporate celebrations go, it was definitely not routine: A woman dressed in blue and yellow with fake bananas on her head handed out the real thing. She had to be Miss Chiquita, and this had to be the unveiling of the Chiquita logo on the side of the NASCAR building, where the company will be occupying six floors by September - adding something new to the skyline just in time for Democratic National Convention coverage.

On Wednesday after the great unveiling, Brian Newton, the company's director of corporate services, gave me a brief tour of the under-construction 15th floor. Newton told me he is one of the 100 employees so far hired locally - or in his case, from Greenville, S.C. (About 160 others are moving to Charlotte from Cincinnati.) What is now a scattering of building material will be a main reception area with a killer view and multimedia presentations along the walls.

Among the speakers at the unveiling ceremony in a lot across the street, David Allen of Trinity Capital, which manages the building, looked relieved at the arrival of the new tenant and sounded just a little defensive about criticism that the NASCAR Hall of Fame has failed to meet attendance projections. He called the hall a "true community asset."

As the usual Charlotte personalities said the usual things (such as Chamber president Bob Morgan's declaration that Chiquita is already a "great corporate citizen"), Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre showed he is rapidly becoming a Charlottean. Drawn by state and local incentives and an expanding airport, Aguirre moved the company from Cincinnati. He praised a long list of elected officials and the way they work in "a seamless fashion" with business.

But Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon on the speaker's dais was a reminder that other city business is pending. In the week he had broken with fellow Democrat Mayor Anthony Foxx by voting "no" on the proposed budget, Cannon was representing the city at the Chiquita fest while Foxx attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual meeting Orlando, Fla., where the city received recognition for energy efficiency efforts.

The budget deadline is two weeks away.

Well, the view from the 15th floor is certainly peaceful.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's "She the People" blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her "Keeping It Positive" segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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