Volkswagen officials are talking with leaders in Tennessee and two other states about issues such as tax incentives, infrastructure and work force, and the automaker’s representatives visited Chattanooga last week.
Hamilton County Commission Chairman Bill Hullander said he attended a dinner Thursday with Volkswagen and economic development officials.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., hosted a dinner at his North Chattanooga residence for the Volkswagen delegation, state and local government officials and area business leaders.
The state delegation included Gov. Phil Bredesen, state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, Labor Commissioner Jim Neeley, Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr and Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke.
Also included were University of Tennessee President John Petersen, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey.
In addition, the officials reportedly toured the Enterprise South industrial park site, the 1,600-acre location in Tyner that is the Tennessee location being considered by Europe’s largest automaker for a new North American assembly plant.
Volkswagen officials came here after a visit to Huntsville, Ala. Alabama is reportedly pitching a site in Limestone County near Huntsville for the plant.
Michigan is a finalist for the project as well.
The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported this weekend that Volkswagen is going ahead with plans for the facility, which could eventually make 250,000 vehicles a year and employ 2,000 workers.
Andres Meurer, a Volkswagen spokesman, told Automotive News that the company’s supervisory board is expected to make a location decision before the carmaker’s three-week summer break, which starts July 24. He said company officials are talking to U.S. leaders about economic incentives, work force availability and other needs.
An automobile industry analyst said Volkswagen representatives have been visiting prospective sites as they eye the new assembly plant.
Mike Randle, publisher of Southern Business and Development magazine, said it’s not uncommon for auto representatives, including consultants, to visit communities courting such a plant.
“Huntsville’s working them,” said Mr. Randle about the Volkswagen representatives.
Last week, the Bredesen administration announced it was creating, in the midst of $468 billion in budget cuts, a $100 million economic development contingency fund to deal with unnamed, major prospects.
While refusing to discuss Volkswagen specifically, Gov. Bredesen last week told the Times Free Press that “one of the bright spots in all this right now is that the pipeline (of economic prospects) has never been fuller. ... There’s a lot going on right now — some of it right here in Hamilton County.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton County officials continue to prepare the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant to hold industrial prospects.
The Hamilton County Commission has increased a contract for development of Enterprise South by nearly $780,000. The extra funding in the contract is going toward additional construction administration, project support, design support, design and permitting services, survey services and reimbursable expenses, according to a resolution passed by the commission.
Gov. Bredesen and top state economic development officials flew to Chattanooga last week, records show.
State airplane flight logs and FlightAware, an Internet flight tracking service, show officials flew in the state’s Beechcraft King Air 90 to Chattanooga on Thursday morning. Records show Gov. Bredesen arrived in Chattanooga at 5:52 p.m. in the state’s 1985 Beech 200.
The governor and top officials left Chattanooga for Nashville on the Beech 200 at 10:10 p.m., records show.
Todd Womack, an aide to Sen. Corker, would not comment. Economic development officials in Chattanooga also have declined comment.
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, ...