The atmosphere at the Rotary Club of Chattanooga was giddy — people trying out their German and applauding some of the players who courted VW well enough to get an assembly plant in town.
But work is not done for the Rotarians — or anyone in the area, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said at the Thursday meeting. It’s up to Rotarians to talk to their employees and promote better education in the area, Mr. Ramsey told club members.
Now that Volkswagen officials have chosen Enterprise South industrial park for their manufacturing facility, the region must bolster public and higher education to ensure the 2,000 or more new jobs VW brings go to local residents, Mr. Ramsey said. He told the 150 or so luncheon guests at the Chattanooga Convention Center that they should press their employees to educate their children or outsiders will take the new jobs.
“Say to your employees, as you go through your plants and your factories and your businesses: ‘How’s your child doing in school? Are they attending or are they learning?’” Mr. Ramsey said. “These are different jobs than were here 25 or 30 or 40 years ago. The technology is amazing.”
If local education doesn’t prepare people for those jobs, “someone will come in to take those jobs,” Mr. Ramsey said.
At the meeting, spirits continued to bubble over the VW news, and the audience stood for applause at many junctures, none louder than when Mr. Ramsey arrived “late” in a Volkswagen Jetta TDI.
“This community is at a crossroads; we’re on a high right now,” Mr. Ramsey said. But he said Chattanooga and the region should keep investing in development, and not just at Enterprise South, where he said he was confident parts suppliers are interested in doing business.
Mr. Ramsey said that, along with the manufacturing facility, VW will have a corporate headquarters for North America at the industrial park and possibly research and development facilities. But reports that an engine plant might be located at Enterprise South never were true, he said.
“An engine plant has never been mentioned,” he said.