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Charlotte Observer: Crabby People Can Go Bananas

Mark Washburn

Mark Washburn Today is one of those days crabby people welcome because they've got something they can snort about until foam pours from their huffing nostrils. We've closed the Chiquita deal, meaning the banana giant has chosen to relocate here. It picked Charlotte for our mild weather, excellent flight connections and because even people in Ohio can't figure out how to spell Cincinnati. No, none of that is true, except the part about spelling. They picked Charlotte because we ponied up about $23 million in something called "incentives," which is an old Indian word meaning "ga-mongous tax breaks, relocation assistance and freebie passes to the NASCAR Hall of Fame." Crabby people are spiritually opposed to "incentives" to attract business in the same way rich people are spiritually opposed to paying "ransoms" to get their whiny relatives back. Once you become identified with the practice, folks think it's open season and the gouging never ends. Crabby people will point out that businesses here might get it in their heads to threaten to move a few miles across the border if South Carolina offers "incentives" and we don't match them. This has actually happened before, and it really frosts the executives in charge of putting a happy face on local economic conditions. There is an entire agency in Columbia called the Department of Come Hither Sweetie that is dedicated to snarfing up our tire plants and other industries and plopping them a few inches across the state line. But they couldn't woo the banana titans. Crabby people are also going to scoff at the news that these 400 new banana jobs are high-paying ones, averaging more than $100,000 a pop. They fail to see the spin-off possibilities these newcomers bring, such as the impact on key sectors like nannies, caddies and restaurant valets. Crabby people also will be stopping you in the streets today to point out that the banana business isn't what it used to be. Chiquita profits are down, probably because American consumers find that a healthy breakfast food in bio-degradable packaging that you can open without the aid of several sharp objects just doesn't seem natural. This is where I must draw the line. Crabby people go too far sometimes. Another industry on the skids will fit nicely with our development portfolio. It will give us something new to fret about. We have enormous fiscal brainpower in this town and might even be able to teach them how to turn things around, like with a giant federal bailout. So, on behalf of the city, we greet you Chiquitians warmly. Come here and prosper. Nothing says welcome like paying $23 million for the bunch.