Top Volkswagen managers “fluctuated between the U.S. states of Alabama and Tennessee” at a meeting last week about a possible assembly plant site, a German newspaper reported Wednesday.
The newspaper Handelsblatt also put Volkswagen’s initial investment in the possible American assembly plant at nearly $1 billion.
Volkswagen’s supervisory board, similar to a board of directors, is expected to make a decision about the U.S. plant next Tuesday.
In addition, the Handelsblatt article, citing unidentified sources, reported that another nearly $500 million is estimated for other projects, potentially for building engines and transmissions. But it quoted Volkswagen’s supervisory board chief as saying VW officials will clarify later whether they will build a a U.S. engine factory.
Chattanooga’s Enterprise South industrial park is believed to be a finalist for the assembly plant along with sites near Huntsville, Ala., and a location in Michigan. Other reports have said Enterprise South could land an engine and drive-train plant with the assembly facility going to Huntsville.
About two weeks ago, Tennessee’s State Funding Board quickly approved a $1.25 million expenditure from the state’s FastTrack program, which enables state officials to move quickly on certain economic infrastructure needs for Enterprise South.
The total costs of the most recent site preparations at Enterprise South are pegged at $1.8 million, according to officials.
Meanwhile, on July 2, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber and four other people flew by state plane to Chattanooga and picked up two more people. They then flew to Dulles International Airport in Virginia, according to state records and Flightaware.com, a commercial airplane tracking service.
Dulles is near Volkswagen’s U.S. headquarters in Herndon, Va.
Mark Drury, an assistant commissioner in the state’s Economic and Community Development Department, said he could not say whether the trip was tied to the Volkswagen effort.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey did not return a telephone call on the matter. Mr. Drury did not respond to an e-mail request for a list of people accompanying Commissioner Kisber on last week’s trip.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kisber, the state’s chief economic recruiter, is on vacation this week, Mr. Drury confirmed. But Mr. Drury said the commissioner remains “very engaged in everything we are working on here.” Gov. Phil Bredesen’s office Tuesday confirmed he, too, is on vacation but remains in contact by phone.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County, continuing to ramp up site work at the industrial park, wants to shift parts of East and West Poe Branches and two unnamed tributaries at the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant in Tyner.
“They were previously channeled by the Army. In many ways, they’re like a ditch,” said Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “What is proposed is to move those streams and restore them to a more natural stream state.”
Additionally, the permit application also proposes to fill 0.39 acres of wetland and mitigate that by creating a larger section of wetland nearby.
The application includes a map showing the streams now going through what is labeled the “project building pad,” with plans to relocate them around that area.
Ms. Calabrese-Benton said none of the work done so far at Enterprise South involves stream relocation.
She said a permit was issued earlier for stormwater construction work. The TDEC spokeswoman said work at the site that began in May has included taking down grassy knolls, removing vegetation and mulching materials.
The work at Enterprise South is in contrast with the proposed location near Huntsville, a flat field.
Jim Frierson, who directs the Advanced Transportation Technology Institute in Chattanooga and has walked the Enterprise South property, said it has been certified by the Tennessee Valley Authority as a megasite, or a site ready to hold an auto assembly plant or other big project.
The Huntsville site also is a TVA megasite.
“I think both sites are fully ready,” Mr. Frierson said. “They’re the gold standard.”
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 ...
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...