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It's time for All Tech Considered, and a techie grassroots competition for jobs. Charlotte, North Carolina, and Cincinnati, Ohio, are trying to win the favor of the Chiquita Company - as in bananas, pineapples and so on. Chiquita is based in Cincinnati, but it might move its headquarters to Charlotte. Three hundred jobs are at stake. And people in both places are communicating directly with the Chiquita CEO about it.
Ann Thompson, of member station WVXU, explains.
ANN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre spends a lot of time tweeting, talking about his job, complimenting people, and commenting on baseball.
Cincinnati marketing executive Kevin Dugan follows Aguirre on Twitter, and sat down to scan all the tweets for a behind-the-scenes look.
KEVIN DUGAN: Man, I'll tell you what, let's see. Just today, all those that we just scrolled through - what was that, about, I'd say two or three dozen?
THOMPSON: One thing Aguirre does not tweet about much is the possible cost-saving move of his company's Cincinnati headquarters. The fruit and salad company, with annual revenues topping $3 billion, is big business.
Three-hundred thirty executives work in Cincinnati, and residents here don't want them to leave. Last month, Dugan and his friend J.B. Kropp had an idea: Why not try to talk Aguirre out of the move on Twitter?
J.B. KROPP: I just went to where we knew he liked to play, and where he listened and responded. So it was, for us, it was just a natural - made a lot of sense.
THOMPSON: They came up with the hashtag NoCincyBananaSplit, and are attaching it to every tweet they send out.
Michelle Spelman saw the hashtag and is now attaching it to her tweets. As her 8-year-old son, Cannon, eats a banana, she turns the sticker into a teachable Twitter moment.
MICHELLE SPELMAN: Cero grasa means zero fat in Spanish. So there you go. So let's put that out on Twitter, because I bet you other people saw this sticker and were wondering too, don't you think?
CANNON SPELMAN: Uh-huh.
THOMPSON: It is possible Chiquita will keep its headquarters in Cincinnati, or it could move to Charlotte or someplace else. In Charlotte, Brian Francis began following Aguirre and launched a competing hashtag, BananasForCLT.
BRIAN FRANCIS: We put a blog up, on the Charlotte Blog. And we're just overwhelmed by the response - hundreds of messages from people around the Charlotte Twittersphere, saying the reasons that they love Charlotte and the reasons they think Chiquita would love us as well.
THOMPSON: One Charlotte restaurant sponsored a banana pudding taste-off in honor of Bananas for Charlotte. Organizers say there were hundreds of tweets, and a response from CEO Aguirre.
Consultant for Deloitte Chris Heuer works with executives to increase their use of social media. He says it's much like trying to get in behind the velvet ropes at a nightclub. Everyday Twitter users have found a place where they can be heard.
CHRIS HEUER: This is something very unique, that the CEO would be confident enough to be engaging around this topic and to embrace that playful spirit relative to this friendly rivalry that's developing.
THOMPSON: And Heuer expects more CEOs to go this route. He says not everybody has a comfort level for tweeting and being on the record, but Fernando Aguirre does. What does Aguirre think of people talking with him via Twitter? Well, he tweeted me this.
(Reading) Pleasantly surprised. Positive for both cities. Direct contact with consumers. Creative. Fun. Humbling and humanizing for CEO.
Chiquita will not give the timetable for its decision, so it appears the tweeting will continue in what some are calling "The Tale of Two Hashtags."
For NPR News, I'm Ann Thompson in Cincinnati.
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