Volkswagen and its suppliers likely will add about 6,000 more passenger boardings annually at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, about 2 percent more than existing traffic, officials said Monday.
The airport unveiled plans to offer people who fly from outside the United States to Lovell Field on corporate aircraft the ability to clear U.S. Customs in Chattanooga.
“They can fly directly from Germany and Mexico right to Chattanooga,” said Mike Landguth, Airport Authority president.
He said customs clearance has been approved by the federal government, but has not been funded. Implementation would involve a computer monitor with a secure link to Washington, D.C., he said.
He said Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., experienced growth at its airport due to BMW’s arrival in the mid-1990s, but the increase wasn’t explosive.
The Chattanooga airport official said the higher boardings, which could come as early as 2009, will reduce volatility of passenger levels at Lovell Field because of the soured economy and the airline industry.
Business people are cutting back on travel, Mr. Landguth said.
In November, boardings at Chattanooga’s airport fell 15.3 percent from the same month a year ago. For the year, traffic is down slightly, or 1.3 percent, according to the airport.
“The biggest issue is where does (the national economy) go,” he said.
Dan Jacobson, Airport Authority chairman, said the city’s air service is stable despite industry volatility.
“It’s a great time for Chattanooga and the region,” he said. “We’ll play significant roles for businesses that relocate to our area.”
Authority member Lynda Griffin also cited a potential new facility in Bradley County involving a $1 billion investment.
“That will probably impact us, too,” she said.
Mr. Landguth said the airport could see a bump in its air cargo operations due to VW and suppliers.
Despite a slack car market, the German automaker has said it is holding to plans to build a $1 billion auto assembly plant at Enterprise South industrial park. The facility is slated to employ 2,000 workers making a new mid-size sedan designed specifically for the American market and start operations in early 2011.
VW officials have said the new plant, which would be its only American production facility, will help reach its target of tripling sales in the United States in 10 years. VW has an assembly plant in Mexico.
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 ...