Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey told hundreds of UTC business students on Thursday to prepare for the opportunities that the Volkswagen assembly plant coming to Enterprise South will offer.
“Opportunities are coming, folks,” Mayor Ramsey said. “If you don’t have the education and the discipline, you won’t get the opportunities.”
Mayor Ramsey made the remarks during his keynote address at the 13th Annual Clarence E. Harris Entrepreneurial Forum at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s University Center.
He told the students about the missed opportunity to land a Toyota plant, which ultimately went to Tupelo, Miss.
“We had to start over, but we learned from that process,” Mayor Ramsey said.
He told the students that he learned of another major manufacturer interested in Enterprise South that was known only to officials as “Polar Bear.”
Polar Bear turned out to be Volkswagen, whose officials Mayor Ramsey said were initially not impressed with the Enterprise South site until county and city workers began clearing and grading the property.
He said officials are expected to soon begin pouring almost 2 million square feet of concrete for the foundation of the $1 billion auto assembly plant.
Dr. Richard C. Becherer, Clarence E. Harris Chair of Excellence in Business and Entrepreneurship, said the story of how state and local officials landed the Volkswagen plant is a motivating story of success.
“I can’t think of anything more uplifting to talk about that the story of Volkswagen coming to Chattanooga,” he said.
Following the keynote address, students broke into two panel discussions.
One panel consisted of three officials from Glenveigh Medical, an area science and technology-based company focused on advancing the practice of obstetrics. The topic will be patenting ideas and getting those ideas to market.
The second panel consists of three entrepreneurs from Knetwit, a student knowledge-based social networking Web site. They will be talking about how to launch start-up companies.
Dr. Becherer told students at the forum that most of them will work for an entrepreneurial company at some point in their lives. He said UTC’s entrepreneurial program can prepare them for that.
“Having an entrepreneurship major and an entrepreneurship minor is very, very great,” he said.
Dr. Becherer said there are 244 students majoring in the topic and about 34 working toward minors in entrepreneurship. The program has grown about 66 percent in the past three years, he said.