J Ed Marston
Some Chattanooga-area companies may get their first shot next month at seeing tangible benefits from the planned Volkswagen plant.
The German automaker has set Sept. 25 to meet with women- and other minority-owned businesses wanting to be suppliers or vendors to the company.
“It’s one of our top priorities,” said VW spokeswoman Jill Bratina. “We’ll tell them what the needs are at the new facility.”
She said the company is to partner with the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce. The supplier fair will be at the Chattanooga Convention Center, she said, but the time for VW’s participation in the event hasn’t been set yet.
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Likely in early October there will be a broader “open house” for other suppliers and vendors, as well as for people interested in working for Volkswagen, Ms. Bratina said.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for marketing, said the September supplier meeting is a starting point for VW to build relationships with local businesses.
“It’s the beginning of many different ways our community will see tangible benefits from the VW project,” he said.
Ms. Bratina said VW’s approach to securing vendors and workers is to mirror the people and interests in the area of its plant.
“We’re committed to diversity in the work force,” she said. “This fair is really an opportunity to talk about our needs over the course of the project as well as our philosophy surrounding and commitment to a diverse supplier pool.”
VW is slated to build a $1 billion plant at Enterprise South industrial park with production starting by early 2011. The assembly plant is expected employ 2,000 people and produce up to 150,000 vehicles annually.
Mr. Marston said VW is focused on all varieties of purchasing for the 1.9 million-square-foot facility. That’s different from the Chattanooga Chamber’s efforts at targeting auto suppliers which are not already in the area to build a plant here, he said.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said this week there could be five or six leading suppliers on the site and 240 adjacent acres exist that could hold similar companies.
Trevor Hamilton, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development, said the group has been marketing to automotive-type business for the last few years.
“While the Chamber will continue to mount an aggressive recruitment effort for new automotive parts suppliers, we are hopeful that existing businesses in the Chattanooga area will have opportunities to do business with Volkswagen thereby resulting in local expansions,” 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 ...