North Georgia officials, seeking to attract Volkswagen suppliers, are eyeing a foray to Germany to meet with prospects that could open new plants here.
“I think Volkswagen will change the face of the region,” said Martha Eaker, chief executive of the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce.
She said she’s working with the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority on a potential visit to Germany.
Chattanooga officials are planning a similar transatlantic recruiting trip, working with state officials and looking at a regional initiative.
“It would definitely involve Southeast Tennessee, but we’re looking for opportunities to partner with North Georgia as well,” said J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of marketing.
While Volkswagen’s new assembly plant at Enterprise South industrial park is to employ 2,000 workers, just as many people are expected to work for the automaker’s suppliers.
A study by the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., estimates that nearly 10 jobs are created by every one at an assembly plant.
Gary Farlow, the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for economic development, said officials there have talked about a German business recruitment trip, but he prefers the regional approach.
“It will impact the whole region,” he said about the $1 billion assembly plant.
Mark Drury, assistant commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said the department now is relying on its representative in Dusseldorf, Germany, to make contact with potential VW suppliers.
“Likely, we’d look at partnerships between counties in the area and the state to do outreach to suppliers,” Mr. Drury said.
He said the state has asked counties in the Chattanooga region to provide site inventories where supplier companies could locate.
Ms. Eaker said Catoosa’s proximity to Interstate 75 makes it attractive. She said most sales are built on relationships and a visit to German businesses would be a wise move.
“Anybody who builds relationships in business, you’re much better off,” Ms. Eaker said.
Mr. Farlow said Bradley County is attractive because of its proximity to Enterprise South.
“It’s as close to Enterprise South as a lot of parts of Hamilton County,” he said.
In the first round of site identification, Chamber officials in Bradley submitted about six locations and buildings as potential supplier locations, Mr. Farlow said.
“There may be another phase in which they look a little further out for second- and third-tier suppliers,” he said.
Mr. Marston said there’s no date for a European visit by Chattanooga representatives. Such a trip would continue to build on Chattanooga’s relationship with VW, he said. In addition, it could create new ties with other companies that could be suppliers and even those that don’t have an automotive connection, Mr. Marston said.
In Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., where Chamber officials recently visited to check the impact of the BMW assembly plant there, a number of international companies have moved in, he said.
“They’ve had a pretty significant explosion of companies that moved to the area not directly related to automotive,” Mr. Marston said.
If a world-class business such as Volkswagen picks a city, other companies will consider it as well, he said.
Volkswagen officials expect to begin pouring concrete at Enterprise South as early as November. Company officials want to begin producing cars in late 2010 or early 2011.
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 ...