Statewide: Charlotte region, December 2014
At 3.5 million square feet, the Philip Morris plant in Concord was the world’s largest cigarette factory, employing as many as 2,500 people. When Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group closed the plant in 2009, it left a gaping hole in Cabarrus County’s economy. Five years later, a Norwegian entrepreneur’s Swiss company has acquired the 2,100-acre campus for $68 million, raising hopes that its electric-grid management technology can deliver an economic punch on par with making cigarettes. Alevo Group opened Victory Industrial Park in late October and plans to hire 500 workers by the end of next year and employ 2,500 within three years, part of an investment that eventually will exceed $1 billion. There it will build its GridBanks product, shipping containers filled with battery cells that enable utilities to store more power from solar and wind-energy production. The company has contracts in China and Turkey, founder and CEO Jostein Eikeland says. Unidentified Swiss investors are financing the project, and Alevo didn’t ask for local or state incentives. That’s a calculated move because the technology is so new, says Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber and Economic Development Corp. “They recognize that they might need to prove themselves a little bit,” he says.
CHARLOTTE — Chiquita Brands International agreed to a cash buyout of $682 million — $14.50 per share — with an investment firm and one of the world’s largest orange-juice producers, both based in Brazil. The Charlotte-based produce company announced in March it intended to merge with Dublin-based Fyffes, creating the world’s largest banana company valued at more than $1 billion. About a month before a scheduled shareholders vote, Cutrale Group and Safra Group made an unsolicited $610 million offer for Chiquita, sparking a bidding war. In October, Chiquita shareholders voted down the Fyffes merger, and the company agreed to terms with the Brazilian companies. Cutrale and Safra haven’t said if they plan to keep Chiquita’s offices and more than 300 jobs in Charlotte. Chiquita was awarded $23 million in state and local incentives when the company moved its headquarters from Cincinnati in 2011.
KANNAPOLIS — Gordon Food Service will spend $58 million to build a local distribution center and will create 275 jobs over five years. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company supplies food products to restaurants, schools and health-care companies in the eastern U.S. and Canada. Average annual pay for the jobs will be $44,727, higher than Cabarrus County’s $40,145. The company will receive a state grant of up to $500,000 if it meets job-creation goals.
SALISBURY — Meg Ham became president of Food Lion Nov. 1, replacing Beth Newlands Campbell, who had the job since December 2012. Food Lion is owned by Brussels-based Delhaize Group. Ham was president of locally based Bottom Dollar Food, a 66-store discount grocer Delhaize plans to sell to Germany-based ALDI for $15 million in 2015.
CHARLOTTE — Laura Schulte, president of Wells Fargo’s eastern U.S. community-banking operations since 2009, will retire by year-end after 32 years with the company. Michelle Lee, head of the San Francisco-based bank’s Northeast community-banking group and a 31-year company veteran, will replace Schulte and is moving to Charlotte.
CHARLOTTE — SPX will spin off its flow-products business into a separate company by late 2015. The new company will produce pumps, valves and filtration equipment, with expected annual revenue of about $3 billion. The remaining company, which makes power transformers and residential and commercial heating and cooling products, will have annual revenue of about $2 billion. SPX employs more than 14,000 people worldwide, including about 350 here. Both companies will be based here.