Chattanooga officials, trying to get a handle on expected wide-ranging changes because of the planned Volkswagen plant, are eying two trips to South Carolina, where German automaker BMW landed more than a decade ago.
“The change we’re going to face is serious change,” said Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive.
One trip, possibly as early as next month, will include about eight people to see how the Chamber will carry out its future jobs-growth mission, Mr. Wilson said. A second trip likely involving up to 30 government, business people and others will examine broader issues, he said. Among those issues is taking a look at German culture, Mr. Wilson said.
“What do we do to make sure the German culture feels at home here?” he said.
Officials said the $1 billion assembly plant and an array of suppliers are expected to accelerate growth and bring marked changes to the area.
Last week, EPB President Harold DePriest said Chattanooga’s economic growth rate could double. EPB, the city-owned electric utility, already has begun preparing information for five automotive suppliers who might locate near the VW plant at the Enterprise South industrial park.
Combined with other suppliers and spin-off businesses, Mr. DePriest said the 2,000 jobs Volkswagen plans to fill in Chattanooga eventually could expand to 14,000 more jobs in the region.
John DeWorken, a vice president of the Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce, said the BMW assembly plant is “an absolute flagship” to that part of the state.
“It has affected the whole labor market up here,” he said. “Billions of dollars have been invested in our region.”
Mr. Wilson said the Chattanooga Chamber can’t wait for change to take place since, as the city’s chief economic development group, it will be one of the entities affected the most.
“In terms of our planning process, we’ve got to be prepared to deal with Tier-One suppliers who may want to move here,” Mr. Wilson said.
Mr. DeWorken said a group from the Tupelo, Miss., area recently visited the Greenville-Spartanburg area. Last year, Tupelo won a Toyota Motor Corp. assembly plant. The plant, also expected to have a 2,000-person workforce, is now under construction with plans to open in late 2009 or early 2010.
VW officials have said they plan to produce 150,000 vehicles a year at the Chattanooga plant, which is a key cog in the company’s goal to sell 1 million VWs and Audis a year in the United States by 2018. That’s more than triple the number sold last year in this country.
Groundbreaking on the plant is expected to be later this year. The facility, Volkswagen’s only assembly plant in the United States, is to be up and running by late 2010 or early 2011, officials have 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 ...