Volkswagen may power more job growth in the Chattanooga area and create a higher profile for the city than if Toyota had landed here a year ago, officials say.
One reason is that the planned Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga won’t just make new cars but will be Volkswagen Group of America’s head office for manufacturing.
The Associated Press -- Vehicles of German carmaker Volkswagen are parked in a storage and loading tower in the so-called “autostadt” in Wolfsburg, Germany.
“There will be a well-educated and high-powered work force,” said Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive.
VW spokeswoman Jill Bratina said about 400 of the 2,000 people expected eventually to work at the plant will hold white-collar jobs. Those slots will include engineering and technical positions, she said.
While VW’s corporate headquarters in the United States is in Herndon, Va., the manufacturing head office will be in Tennessee, Ms. Bratina said.
Mr. Wilson foresees that prospect producing research and development jobs at the plant.
“That brings an extra dimension to an already good thing,” he said.
VW announced last week that its U.S. plant will be built at Enterprise South industrial park and begin production by 2011. A little over a year ago, Toyota bypassed Enterprise South in favor of Tupelo, Miss.
Another reason VW’s impact could top Toyota’s is that Chattanooga will be the German automaker’s only U.S. assembly plant, while the Japanese company already has several facilities in America.
BY THE NUMBERS
* 230,000: vehicles VW sold last year in U.S.
* 800,000: sales target for 2018
* 150,000: cars to be made in Chattanooga
“Toyota has a supply chain in place,” Mr. Wilson said. “Volkswagen has got to build that supply chain to serve them. Over time, that probably will be huge for this economy.”
The number of supplier jobs in the region could surpass the 2,000 direct jobs at the plant, officials said.
“What we accomplished in getting VW will assure growth in this market for years to come,” Mr. Wilson said.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chamber’s vice president for marketing, said when VW checked out the Chattanooga area’s work force, it wanted information not only on assembly-line employees but on professionals as well.
“They wanted to speak to some of our CEOs,” he said.
Mr. Marston said Vicky Gregg, chief executive at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and J. Don Brock, chief executive at Astec Industries Inc., each talked with VW.
“That covers the spectrum,” he said.
VW also could surpass Toyota’s impact in the area because Toyota already has experienced a big run-up in market share in the United States, officials said. Volkswagen only has 2 percent of the U.S. market and more room for growth. The company has said it wants to triple U.S. sales by 2018.
“There’s strong potential to pick up market share,” Mr. Marston said.
Mr. Wilson said finishing No. 1 on VW and No. 2 in the Toyota site search validates what officials in the city and the Chamber have tried to do this decade.
“We totally redid the way we went about recruiting industry,” said Mr. Wilson, who joined the Chamber in 2002 after a long career in banking.
Too many chambers of commerce are ineffective because they’re using an outdated business model, he said.
“I come from the business world,” Mr. Wilson said. “We set about trying to run this like a company, like you measure yourself in the private sector.”
Mr. Wilson said the Chamber raised $9 million in its first economic development campaign and $9.5 million in its second. In comparison, no private money had been secured for city and county jobs campaigns before, he said.
“We couldn’t have done anything if we weren’t adequately funded,” 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 ...