The news that Volkswagen will build an assembly plant in Chattanooga has sent area leaders scrambling to find more land and get existing sites ready for an expected army of suppliers.
Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said the district has been conducting an inventory of available land in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia.
The information will be forwarded to the Tennessee Department of Community and Economic Development and the Tennessee Valley Authority to show to prospects, she said.
“We hope to have this ready by next week,” Ms. Jones said. “We’re burning the midnight oil.”
The inventory includes how much land each county has available; whether the tracts include sewer, water and rail connections; and how far they are from Enterprise South in Chattanooga, she said.
Economic development officials are gathering the information so it will be easily accessible for potential VW suppliers, she said.
“This is not about pitting local incentives against each other,” she said.
Volkswagen announced two weeks ago that it would open an assembly plant at Enterprise South, generating about 2,000 jobs at start-up. State leaders said suppliers for the plant would scatter through the region.
Now local officials are trying to find ways to enhance their chances of getting a supplier by looking for more land.
Dayton, Tenn., Mayor Bob Vincent said the city bought 50 acres near International Automotive Component Group two years ago. He said the site could hold one large facility and a couple of smaller manufacturers or six to seven small industries.
“What we don’t have a feel for is the size of the industries coming this way,” he said.
The city also is considering negotiations on 200 acres north of town with rail, sewer and water access, Mr. Vincent said. He and other county economic officials declined to give a specific location or name the owner.
TDEC Commissioner Matt Kisber said Friday he could not estimate how many suppliers could land in counties around the plant, but he said state officials think they could bring 10,000 to 12,000 more jobs.
Economic officials said Friday they expect most suppliers will want 30 acres or more.
Mr. Kisber said each company’s needs would differ, depending on what they manufacture. But he said suppliers would want room for a plant and parking.
“Tracts in that size or larger make sense,” Mr. Kisber said.
Gary Farlow, vice president for economic development at the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, said about 40 acres are available at South Industrial Park, south of Cleveland. The Hiwassee River Industrial Park on the north end of the county has 17 acres.
He said county and city officials have started shopping for more land.
“We’re looking at sites that can be quickly developed,” he said. “Every community within an hour’s drive will be getting their sites together.”
Raymond Walker, executive director of the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council, said money will play a key role in whether counties and municipalities are able to get land. Some acreage is priced too high for rural counties, he said.
A “sense of urgency” exists to find and buy the land because suppliers could come looking in six months to a year, he said.
“We’re either going to get into this or sit back and watch the show,” Mr. Walker said.
Cliff has worked for the Times Free Press for five years and covers Chattanooga city government. He previously covered Rhea County, as well as transportation and growth and development in Southeast Tennessee. A native of Maryville, Tenn., Cliff graduated in 2003 from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism. Before coming to Chattanooga, he was a crime reporter with Hernando Today, a supplement of The Tampa (Fla.) ...