Chattanooga officials are starting detailed talks this week with their Volkswagen counterparts, getting Enterprise South industrial park ready for the automaker’s $1 billion assembly plant, officials said Tuesday.
As still more earthmoving and other equipment joins the more than two dozen pieces already at the 1,350-acre tract, local planners and VW associates are working on site and construction details.
“The scheduling and timing of those are really key,” said Steve Leach, the city’s public works administrator. “There will be a lot of design and engineering sessions. We’re moving a lot of dirt. You want to make sure you get the dirt in the right place.”
Mark Barnes, Volkswagen Group of America’s chief operating officer, said VW has an ambitious schedule to build cars in Chattanooga by 2011, and everything needs to be in place to make that happen. Volkswagen officials say construction of the 1.9 million-square-foot facility could start as early as November.
“We’ve got a time frame set forth for laying concrete,” Mr. Barnes said.
Members of the city’s Industrial Development Board, which will oversee many of the construction contracts with VW, checked out the site Tuesday and came away wowed by the scope of the work.
“It’s much more area and territory than I would have thought,” said Jean Logan, the panel’s vice chairman.
City Engineer Bill Payne said that, at this point, workmen are just improving half the VW site — a high-priority parcel where clearing, grading and other steps are required to move the project ahead.
Logging other parts of the tract and hauling off trees is ongoing, while chipping smaller brush is done on site, he said. Mr. Payne said 29 loads of mulch were carried away in one day recently.
Contractors are working six days a week, 12 hours a day to prepare the location, he said. Some companies will work Sundays if time is lost due to rain, Mr. Payne said.
VW’s assembly plant, scheduled to make a new mid-size sedan aimed at the United States market, is expected to employ 2,000 workers. More than 150,000 vehicles annually are to be produced at the new plant, officials said.
To meet VW’s timeline, Mr. Leach quipped that officials will work members of the Industrial Development Board “like a borrowed mule.”
“There is a lot of anticipation for the next several months,” he said. “This is an incredible project.”
VW construction management personnel have been invited to daily morning meetings with all contractors on the site, Mr. Leach said.
“There are very detailed decisions to be made,” ranging from where to put the construction trailers and employee parking to identifying access points to the site, he said.
“There are lots of moving parts. All those little decisions someone has to make,” Mr. Leach said. “These will continue through the coming months.”
As well as the plant, Enterprise South is expected to hold a supplier park of key partners in VW’s auto-production process, in addition to other such companies locating in the region, Mr. Barnes said.
“You’ve got to have that,” he said.
Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...