City Councilwoman Sally Robinson wasn’t convinced at first that the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant in Tyner could help elevate Chattanooga to the world stage.
“I didn’t think it would happen because of the bureaucracy of dealing with the Army and the federal government,” the longtime council member said. “We had a lot of work to do to create the industrial park it has become.”
But nearly a decade of effort is paying off, and the sprawling industrial park that has been created represents “our place in the future in manufacturing,” she said.
The VAAP site, or much of it, has become Enterprise South industrial park and the linchpin of Chattanooga’s effort to land a major manufacturer such as an auto assembly plant.
Having finished second in the sweepstakes for a Toyota Motor Corp. plant just a year ago, the city now is locked in a battle with Alabama and Michigan for a Volkswagen facility that could bring 2,000 jobs.
The German automaker’s supervisory board, similar to a board of directors, is expected to meet Tuesday and reach a decision.
Published reports indicate Huntsville, Ala., is the front-runner for the plant and Chattanooga is running second, though local officials remain hopeful about Enterprise South’s chances to win the prize.
Jim Bruce, an Atlanta-based industry site consultant whose company helped guide development of VAAP early this decade, said he is “very high” on the industrial park.
At 1,600 acres, the site is located next to a good-sized metropolitan area that helps provide a work force for employers, he said.
“There is the availability of people to work,” he said. “It’s better than if it was put in a rural location.”
VAAP’s history stretches to World War II when the federal government acquired 7,000 acres for TNT production. Employment shortly thereafter reached 3,500 workers.
Production and jobs ebbed and waned over the years. In 1978, a push was begun by local officials to free portions of the site for an industrial park.
But it wasn’t until 2000 that the city and Hamilton County paid $7.5 million for 940 acres for use as an industrial park.
In 2002, it was renamed Enterprise South, and later more acreage was added.
In addition to the 1,600 acres it offers directly accessible off Interstate 75, Enterprise South has a 2,800-acre buffer park, and another 1,400 acres are being readied for industrial use within the next couple of years.
About $85 million has been spent so far on the site, much of it federal money for cleanup, and more is expected.
City Councilman Dan Page said the development of Enterprise South over a relatively short period has put Chattanooga on a different playing field in terms of wooing manufacturers.
“We can compete with the best,” he said, calling it a “world-class site.”
Along with VAAP, Chattanooga ramped up its business recruitment and marketing efforts.
The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce instituted a pair of campaigns to raise public and private money for economic development at a level unseen here in the past.
Mrs. Robinson said the results have put Chattanooga on the short list for major businesses such as Volkswagen and Toyota.
“Regardless of what happens (with VW), we’re sitting on the front row,” she said.
Hamilton County Commissioner Bill Hullander said he is confident there will be some major industry at the site, whether that is Volkswagen or another business.
“It has elevated Chattanooga’s status,” he said. “Now we’re known for more than for the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.”
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 ...