KNOXVILLE — The head of Volkswagen Group of America said Tuesday the automaker plans to include a clean diesel version of the mid-size car it will produce at its Chattanooga assembly plant.
“We don’t see any conflict between business and the economy and the environment,” said VW of America chief Stefan Jacoby at the Governor’s Summit on Clean Energy Technology.
Mr. Jacoby said the German car maker is perfecting a clean diesel hybrid vehicle, and it is “at the forefront” of a zero-emission hydrogen auto.
“It’s a business opportunity,” he said about the environment in remarks to several hundred people at the first-ever summit of its kind in Tennessee.
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said the state is ready to fulfill financial commitments made for Volkswagen’s new Chattanooga assembly plant, despite the tough economy
“We expect to expand those with suppliers,” said the governor, who is leading a delegation to Germany later this month to woo more VW-related business.
Even through the state has experienced a downturn in revenues due to sluggish tax collections, Gov. Bredesen said Tennessee has strong reserves.
He said the state can take advantage of the economic times to pursue more business.
“Times are tough, but it’s time to go the extra mile,” the governor said at a summit news conference.
The state agreed to millions of dollars in financial incentives to attract the VW plant.
Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, whose Baker Center for Public Policy at UT is helping host the energy summit, said VW “has chosen well” in picking Tennessee for its new plant.
“We have flexibility on the economic side,” he said.
Gov. Bredesen said now is the right time to discuss clean energy technology issues.
“When we emerge from the downturn, I want Tennessee poised to capitalize in this very sector,” he said. The governor said there could be enormous economic opportunities for the state.
Mr. Jacoby said the automaker is prepared to go ahead with the construction of the $1 billion plant that is expected to employ 2,000 people when operational by 2011.
“We’re not moving one inch from our strategic plan,” he said. “The plan is on time.”
He said the 1.9 million-square-foot facility at Enterprise South industrial park will be environmentally friendly.
“The facility will conserve resources and limit environmental impact at every step,” he said.
Mr. Jacoby said plans are to create a wetlands near the entrance of the site to prevent flooding and aid the ecosystem. The automaker also will use environmentally sensitive refrigerant in its air-conditioning systems, recycle whenever possible and use a production process that cuts waste, he said.
“It makes us a better neighbor, and we want to be a good neighbor in Tennessee,” Mr. Jacoby said. “We can have clean jobs and a bright future.”
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said the city and county soon will be ready to turn over the 1,350-acre plant site to VW so it can begin building the facility.
“The site will be turned over in a timely fashion,” 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 ...